“Beyond the competitiveness of our products, we need to prove our worth on a number of socio-economic indicators such as political stability, cultivating an investment-friendly environment, greening the economy, transparency, predictability, as well as having good macro-economic policies,” he said at the South African Competitiveness Forum in Midrand.
“If we are to be competitive, we must have in place sound economic policies, cultivate a favourable legal and business environment, roll out socio-economic infrastructure, constantly improve our trade and industrial policies, and lower the cost of doing business.”
With open-ended access to global markets, South African products and services needed to compete with those of other countries.
The forum was intended to discuss ways to improve South Africa’s global competitiveness, said Motlanthe.
“We have also fallen short of the development trajectory necessary to place us on a par with many of our competitors.
“These glaring challenges show themselves through high rates of inequality, poverty and unemployment, especially among young people who constitute the majority of our population,” he said.
“Confronted by the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, we are acutely aware that improvement in the competitiveness of our nation is proportional to strides in these critical areas that define the character of our nation today.”
He said unemployment, inequality and poverty threatened socio-political stability, because they contributed to social unrest, crime, and a general sense of hopelessness.
Government had put interventions in place to increase skills, provide better health services, and improve living standards.
He said research and development indicated that the education system was sound, especially in maths and science.
“Simply put, to improve our competitiveness we need to grow a critical mass of a population that is able to fully participate in their own socio-economic development, thus pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps,” he told the forum.
Education and training remained disproportionately important as the most viable long-term solution.
He said more attention should be paid to producing a generation of young people armed with skills to meet the economy’s needs.
Government needed to do more to provide quality health care and socio-economic infrastructure.
Motlanthe said South Africa still faced economic difficulties, including low savings, a high current account deficit, and increasing debt levels.
Achieving sustainable competitiveness had never been a more pressing challenge for South Africa.