Masualle prefaced his speech by saying the global and national economic outlook remained sluggish, leading to decreased state revenue.
“As the province, we have also received reduced fiscal transfers from National Treasury as a consequence of our slow population growth,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery in Bhisho.
“This will require us to do more with less, and manage our resources more efficiently.”
On education, he said more than 90 percent of the province’s schools were now no fee schools. In the past year, 60 schools had been provided with water and sanitation facilities.
“We also completed renovating 30 schools that were affected by disasters, with another 28 being planned to commence in the 2015/16 financial year.”
As part of efforts to eliminate mud schools, 97 schools had been built in the past three years, and 20 new schools were planned for the 2015/16 financial year.
“As we speak, 1,746,477 learners are benefiting from the school nutrition programme… parents, teachers and service providers who abuse this service by stealing the food and by corrupting its procurement directly contribute to the suffering of our children,” Masualle said.
He warned that the province was also tightening up governance of the scholar transport programme to prevent unscrupulous people from tapping state funds.
On health, Masualle said significant progress had been made in raising the province’s health profile.
Improvements to sections of Dora Nginza and Frere hospitals were already completed, and work on a number of other health facilities was progressing.
“… With respect to the National Health Insurance (NHI), our focus currently is on revamping two hospitals, namely Bambisana at Lusikisiki and Zithulele at Elliotdale. Similarly, five new clinics will be constructed, and 40 consulting rooms will be added to existing clinics.”
The Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital would be expanded into a central hospital attached to the Walter Sisulu School of Medicine.
“In 2015/16 we are going to complete the 530 bed flagship project at Cecilia Makiwane hospital at a cost of R935 million. The Frontier Hospital’s casualty unit, paediatrics and outpatients department, costing R245m, will also be finalised.”
Masualle said the province was committed to reversing the legacy of neglect of rural areas to create viable and sustainable communities.
“In keeping with the vision of the Freedom Charter, we are committed to ensuring that land is redistributed and shared equitably among those who work it, in order to banish famine and land hunger.”
Increased agricultural opportunities, such as the R86m agro processing facility at the Coega Industrial Development Zone, would help lift families out of poverty.
The province was also planning to develop rural infrastructure, such as abattoirs, dairy infrastructure, aquaculture incubation schemes, and rural tourism infrastructure.
“Forging ahead, we should ensure that there is enhanced integration in the value chain and linkages to the deep water container port of Ngqurha for handling of global exports, such as the frozen pineapples from places like Ngqushwa, destined for the Japanese market.”
The province had the enduring objective of growing its economy to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods, Masualle said.
“We have to do this against an economic outlook characterised by, among other things, an economy that records one of the highest unemployment rates in the country which currently stands at 30.8 percent, while youth unemployment stands at 50 percent.”
A total of 24,737 jobs had been created in the province, exceeding its target of 13,234 jobs, through economic agencies, such as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, the East London industrial development zone (IDZ), and the Coega Development Corporation (ECDC).
“We are targeting 14 investments with the value of R2.237 billion in the two IDZs.
“In the coming year, jobs will be created in manufacturing, logistics, alternative energy, agro processing and services. We will also offer export support to businesses through ECDC.”
The province was also making inroads in its aim of becoming one of the country’s energy hubs.
“The Jeffrey’s Bay Wind Farm, which is the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, started generating electricity in mid-2014, and is expected to supply enough clean, renewable energy to meet the needs of over 100,000 households in the province,” Masualle said.
On the subject of fracking, he said the discovery of shale gas reserves in the Karoo Basin offered the province economic and job creation opportunities.
Research was underway, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, to establish a detailed technical understanding of the potential shale gas resource and possible environmental risks associated with its extraction.
“We believe that the change we seek can be realised only when we work together,” Masualle said.
“Each and every one of us, as members of this chain of unity, must pull their equal share of strength to move the province forward.”