Investment in infrastructure and skills development were top priorities when Finance Minister Trevor Manual presented his medium-term budget policy statement yesterday.
"We need to sharpen our microeconomic policy instruments through lowering the costs of doing business, stepping up our efforts in skills development, increasing trade competitiveness and investing in infrastructure that will support economic expansion," Manuel told Parliament.
Manuel targetted skills development as an area of major concern – and one that is being experienced around the world. "China is battling with severe shortages of lawyers; major Indian companies are complaining about a shortage of IT professionals; everywhere there are difficulties in finding industrial, commercial and managerial expertise," he says.
"The point we need to debate about South Africa's skills shortages is not whether they exist or not, but how we confront the challenge and deal with it, recognising that everywhere else in the world they are focused on the same thing.
"The area of skills development is clearly one in which we will make more progress if we address the institutional and financial barriers that stand in the way of aligning resources with needs."
Among the interventions he proposes is a further R2,7-billion to go towards improving schools – included getting computers into the 17 000 schools througout South Africa that are still without them.
In addition, the budget framework and related economic policy proposals provide a clear platform for investment in the infrastructure and services that are likely to raise the country's growth path towards 6%, he says, with about R20-billion of the additional amounts going towards capital formation, broadening access to basic services and increasing economic efficiency.