0.6% growth for 2016

trying times: Finance MEC Elsabe Rockman delivering her budget speech in the Bloemfontein City Hall this week. PICTURE: VOIGHT MOKONE

The provincial economic forecast for the year is worrisome and trying times are ahead

THE provincial budget tabled this week by treasury MEC Elsabe Rockman has received mixed reactions from the ruling and opposition parties and one thing is clear economic growth prospects are discouraging. Rockman said economic projections for the coming financial year showed growth of 0.6%, 0.4% more than last year’s unofficial forecast.

She said the sluggish growth rate was primarily informed by a slowdown in the agriculture sector, declining output and low prices for commodities coming from the Free State, as well as stagnant manufacturing. She said the marginal growth in the government and communication service sectors also contributed to a depressed economic growth.

This, according to the FF+ in the Free State, spells trouble for the province. Rockman said, however, that despite the challenges, the government remained steadfast in its commitment to improve the economy. She said that in order to address economic development, the province had identified the special economic zone in Tshiame.

Additionally, it would look at the Harrismith Logistic Hub and focus on agro-logistics, fuel distribution depots, a vehicle distribution centre and a food processing plant. The provincial government would also concentrate on integrated urban-space and public-transport programmes, including developing the N8 corridor and the aero city concept for the Bram Fischer International Airport node, as well as the revitalisation of mining towns. There would also be an integrated municipal infrastructure including, but not limited to, rehabilitation of water and waste water treatment works in various municipalities.

Green energy would also become a focus for the province with solar parks in Xhariep, Masilonyana, Tokologo, Setsoto, Dihlabeng, Phumelela and Nketoana. Rockman said the development of five agri-parks would also boost the agroprocessing industry for the province. “Our detractors may question our strategies, cast aspersions on our tactics and ridicule our implementation initiatives but they will not divert us from our chosen path,” she said.