Bobby Godsell, Chairman, Business Leadership South Africa: Interview

Bobby Godsell, Chairman, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA)

Interview: Bobby Godsell

What role is the private sector playing in the rollout of the National Development Plan (NDP)?

BOBBY GODSELL: The private sector is fully behind the targets of the NDP and understands that certain fundamental social and political goals must be achieved to ensure inclusive growth. However, the key to its success will be implementation, and both the government and the private sector acknowledge that each has a significant role to play. Infrastructure funding is a space where the private sector can be directly involved. There are approximately 18 Strategic Integrated Projects in the pipeline that will require some form of public-private partnership to ensure financing and execution. The government is currently experiencing a period of fiscal consolidation that will require the private sector to fill the funding gap for large infrastructure projects. Renewable energy development is a good example of the private and public sector working together, and we are convinced the model can be applied across other industries.

How can collaboration between labour and the public and private sectors be improved?

GODSELL: The public perception of the relationship between government, business and labour is about 90% wrong in my view. Dialogue has been open between government and business for quite some time in multiple arenas, such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council, and we continue to engage in a serious manner. It’s reductionist, simplistic and unhelpful to say there is a lack of trust between the parties. Business realises that they must respond constructively to political imperatives.

What are the main challenges to long-term socio-economic stability in South Africa?

GODSELL: The four issues that the private sector has brought to the attention of government are regulatory certainty, education, infrastructure and labour relations. The NDP has a national goal is agreed upon and in place, but on a sector-by-sector basis regulatory certainty can vary. The renewable energy programme and auto manufacturing initiatives have successfully attracted investment and development. Some other sectors such as mining or energy are still mired in a degree of uncertainty and are waiting to take off. The private sector currently has a great deal of capital and will be reluctant to deploy it unless they are assured about the future. Labour relations have improved overall but remain a key concern for labour intensive industries such as mining. We welcome the progress made in infrastructure upgrades and investment in development projects for this sector. Of course we must also do more in promoting and developing education from both the private and public sector sides to ensure the transition to a knowledge-based economy. We are starting to move towards establishing apprenticeships so that employers can find more technically skilled workers as opposed to simply graduates. Enrolment is not an issue but the quality of outcomes can be a concern. Education has been a cooperative initiative, and this is reflected in programmes such as the National Education Collaborative Trust.

What sort of policies might help best channel foreign capital into domestic development?

GODSELL: South Africa has a sound framework for foreign investment that has actually been in place since the early 1990s. As the most developed economy on the continent, and with a strong legal and tax system, the country will continue to attract investment and serve as a gateway to the continent. We will keep running our economy soundly – to grow it vigorously, give investors security of ownership and apply fair taxation and the rule of law. You want people to be invested for the long haul. Incentives should be offered with a view towards long-term commitment.

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Bobby Godsell

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The Report: South Africa 2016

Economy chapter from The Report: South Africa 2016

The Report: South Africa 2016

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