TLU SA noted the efforts made by Minister Tito Mboweni to project a spirit of turnaround during his first full budget speech. However, the dilemma is that there is not a turnaround yet. The big question is of course who exactly will be doing the turning in practice.
“From the standpoint of agriculture there is obviously concern over the increase in fuel levies,” says Louis Meintjies, the President of TLU SA. “This while a big number of crop farmers have been in the grip of drought and have little, if any, capacity to complete their production process.
“We are also concerned that there is a lack of focus on the commercial farmer or the stabilisation of the industry, because 68% of the population have urbanised.
“The government’s land reform processes have failed with, by their own admission, around 90% moving out of production,” he says. “Many of these farms have been recapitalised, but still with no success. Our offer of help and advice have been swept from the table every time.
“What is going to happen differently now to not just continuously filling a bottomless pit,” he wants to know. “The ideology and policy of the ANC around handling the principle of property rights is certainly not going to help repair the trust of investors.
“The importance of infrastructure and the focus on education cannot be dismissed. But, will the appropriate expertise be used to ensure positive results?
“We can only trust that the NPA is going to wipe out corruption and self-enrichment on all levels with everything in their power and that taxpayers’ money will be appropriated in the way it is meant.”
Given the ANC’s policies leading to much expertise being lost for the country, as well as continuous uncertainty around laws negatively affecting big investment, TLU SA is not convinced that the economy will reach the expected growth.
State debt of more than 60% and Eskom’s incapacity to provide power at affordable rates, are still part of the giant elephant in the room. Commercial farmers who have to put food on the country’s tables are left out in the desert on their own devices, while lifebuoys are time and again thrown out to institutions like Eskom.
“We will have to see what credit agencies do after this,” says Meintjies. “The problem lies in how the funds for agriculture are used. A lot of money is aimed at black farmer empowerment even though it has shown very little success in the past. Why would the results be different this time?
“If there is any further downgrades it will lead to investors moving past and the economy not reaching its much needed growth targets.”