Building our country

What does the recent State of the Nation Address mean for the building sector? Rob Johnson, Executive Director of the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC) gives us his expert opinion.

In his recent State of the Nation Address President Jacob Zuma stated, “For the year 2012 and beyond, we invite the nation to join government in a massive infrastructure development drive. The infrastructure plan will be driven and overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC)… [which] has identified and developed projects and infrastructure initiatives from state-owned enterprises as well as national, provincial and local government departments. These have been clustered, sequenced and prioritised into a pipeline of strategic integrated projects.”

Commenting on the infrastructural projects planned for the country, Rob Johnson, Executive Director of the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC), says, “It is unfortunate that other than a mention of the West Coast, very little if any, mention was made of major national infrastructural spend planned for the Western Cape.”

Johnson commends the government’s plans to support the long-term industrial and economic development of the Saldanha Bay Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which, according to a feasibility study, would generate a minimum annual return of R11.2 billion for the economy and create 12 000 sustainable jobs. He explains, “The Western Cape region cannot continue to rely on tourism and the service industry to boost employment and job creation – it must have industrial growth in areas where concentrated housing expansion and development is taking place.”

“However,” he continues, “One of the infrastructural elements sadly lacking in these areas is public transport, particularly rail services. The improvement and expansion of the rail service into areas where huge concentrations of population have no access to rail services will lead to investment in industry and manufacturing - alleviating unemployment in those areas. To this end, we fully agree with the President’s statements that ‘The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation’.”

The Executive Director and MBAWC have also welcomed President Zuma’s announcement that people earning between three thousand five hundred rand and R15 000, will be able to obtain a subsidy of up to R83 000 from Provinces, to enable them to obtain housing finance from an accredited Bank. He says, “The creation of suitable homes within the affordable housing market will have a positive spin off for our struggling industry.”

“The President acknowledged that government alone cannot solve the challenges faced by our country, but that it was through working together that solutions are made possible. We, too, believe that building our country requires a collaboration between members of our industry, the private sector and government if we are to create jobs, eradicate poverty and eliminate inequality”, Johnson concludes.

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