Tags: SAfrica | politics | economy | Zuma

South Africa's Zuma Targets Economy in Keynote Address

Tuesday, 17 June 2014 02:43 PM

Besieged South African President Jacob Zuma made his first public appearance in 10 days Tuesday to deliver a state of the nation address, pledging "radical socio-economic transformation".

Zuma, 72, who was hospitalized for two days for fatigue and tests before taking a week off, made a similar commitment at his inauguration for a second term last month.

He said Tuesday that "the economy takes center stage" in efforts to combat poverty, inequality and unemployment 20 years after the end of apartheid.

"We will embark on various measures and interventions to jump start the economy," he said.

But his keynote address was thin on specifics, apart from plans to tackle the country's failing energy supply, which has led to blackouts.

Zuma was speaking after a battering of bad economic news against a background of high unemployment, a crippling miner's strike and protests over housing and service delivery.

Africa's most developed economy contracted in the first quarter of the year, partly because of a protracted strike at the world's biggest platinum mines.

Last week two key credit ratings agencies issued gloomy assessments of the country's economy, with Standard & Poors lowering South Africa's sovereign credit rating to just a notch above junk bond status and Fitch revising its outlook to negative from stable.

In a direct appeal to investors, Zuma said: "The low level of investments is a key constraint to economic growth. We are determined to work with the private sector to remove obstacles to investment."

Last month, South Africa's Reserve Bank slashed its growth forecast for this year to 2.1 percent from 2.6 percent.

With unemployment above 25 percent and inflation rising, Zuma's administration has pledged to implement a National Development Plan aimed at cutting unemployment to 14 percent by 2020 and boosting the growth rate to 5.4 percent.

Twenty years after Nelson Mandela's African National Congress came to power at the end of apartheid, Zuma won a mandate for a second term in the May 7 elections, despite being embroiled in a scandal over the spending of some $23 million dollars on his private rural residence.


© AFP 2018

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014 02:43 PM
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