BUSINESS CONFIDENCE: ANC Reassures Cape Business Leaders
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ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa has told a group of influential Cape business leaders that although the party would always be focused on “the downtrodden”, long-term economic growth, an increased income tax base and stability remain important goals.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting organised by Ernst & Young and Accelerate Cape Town at Lanzerac Manor and Winery, Phosa emphasised that the ANC NEC remained the same recognisably prudent, economically conservative entity with which big business had become comfortable since 1994.
Addressing a group that included representatives of Accelerate Cape Town members Pam Golding Properties, Nedbank, Pick n Pay and Media24, he encouraged dialogue between civil society and business to tackle corruption. Phosa acknowledged that corruption is particularly problematic at local government level, especially around tendering issues. A change in procurement processes to shift this role from local government to independent agencies is being considered to alleviate this.
During question time, he was asked about the co-mingling of business and politics, and whether there were rules covering possible conflicts of interest between the two. Business and politics generally mix very comfortably, said Phosa, citing the fact the US Republican Party vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin refers to herself as “a businesswoman”. But, he agreed, obvious and direct conflicts of interest should be managed according to global best practices.
Asked about the impact of world recession and increased fuel costs, Phosa pleaded “not guilty”. He cited exchange controls, about which there had been considerable debate in the past, as one of the reasons South Africa has been somewhat insulated from the current international turmoil. He believes that most local companies, with the possible exception of financials like Old Mutual, KPMG and Investec (all Accelerate Cape Town members), will probably be not directly affected. Were South African banks to come under pressure, the government would intervene strongly to protect them, he reassured the audience, which included Accelerate Cape Town members Distell, Sekunjalo, bp and Chevron.
Accelerate Cape Town board member and British American Tobacco SA corporate affairs director Fay Kajee asked: “What can corporates in the Western Cape do better, differently or more of?” Phosa replied that there was “a real sense” of skills shortages weakening the public sector significantly. “We want to hear from you about barriers, bottlenecks and obstacles” in growing business, he said. He pointed out that ways of increasing the tax base, stimulating economic growth and encouraging SMMEs must be found together. Phosa added that during the “transitional phase” in the run up to the 2009 general election, many pertinent issues were under review, including the size of government and number of ministries, considering that the skills shortage had lead to many departmental vacancies. A shake up of the government could include improved overall skills and capacity, reducing “the lag” between governmental decisions and their implementation and better co-operation between departments.
“Organising meetings between senior politicians and key businesspeople is one of Accelerate Cape Town’s central aims as they foster collaborative relationships with shared goals,” said Accelerate Cape Town CEO Guy Lundy. “Today business and politics strongly influence each either, especially in the politically variable Western Cape. Communication is essential if we want the region to prosper.”
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