State of the WCape tabled

FILE PICTURE: Western Cape premier Helen Zille. Picture: Alaister Russell

Economic growth and jobs remains the Western Cape’s number one priority, premier Hellen Zille said during her State of the Province Address (Sopa) which was tabled on Friday.

“This is the only way to fight poverty in a sustainable way,” she said.

While the province has the lowest broad unemployment rate in the country at 24,5%, which is a full 10.1% below the national broad unemployment rate, Zille said youth unemployment remains a particular challenge everywhere, including the Western Cape.

“Until now, the biggest blockage to economic lift-off has been policy uncertainty created by national government, and the countless job-crushing laws and regulations that are described as “red tape”.

But even these have now been trumped by our current energy crisis. Simply put, if there is no energy, there is no economy. The disastrous management of electricity generation, transmission and reticulation by Eskom, a state owned enterprise, has left us with a chronically unpredictable electricity supply, which drives away investment and destroys jobs.”

She said when load-shedding hits, it costs the province’s economy hundreds of millions of rands in lost productivity and investment.

Zille said President Jacob Zuma was not serious about solving this crisis when he insists on maintaining Eskom’s monopoly and pursuing the unaffordable Russian nuclear deal that, even if it gets off the ground, cannot deliver any power for the next 15 years.

“We need viable alternatives now and that is why energy security has to be a game changer,” said Zille.

Establishing the Western Cape as a hub of innovative businesses also remains a top priority, according to Zille.

She said affordable broadband connectivity is essential for economic growth.

“Rapid internet access increases global competitiveness, supports new businesses, grows jobs and achieves social progress and that is why access to high speed broadband to all residents of the Western Cape is also a game-changer and is already well under-way.

“Our government will be providing broadband connectivity to approximately 2 000 Western Cape Government sites through our partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and Neotel,” Zille said.

The number of provincial government sites that will be connected include 1,250 schools, 300 health facilities and 220 libraries by July 2016.

To date, surveys at 460 sites have been completed.

In a bid to make a major contribution towards improving the quality of teaching and learning in the province, Zille spoke about E-learning.

“We have allocated nearly R730 million over the next three years to establish ICT infrastructure and e-learning in schools.

“We aim to install a Local Area Network (LAN) in 610 schools, including for pupils with special educational needs over the next five years,” Zille added.

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