NATIONAL Planning Minister Trevor Manuel has ended weeks of speculation about his role in President Jacob Zuma's Cabinet.
Manuel, in the Presidency, has developed a strategy that will inform the functioning of the national, provincial and local governments.
The minister told a media briefing at the Union Buildings yesterday that the Zuma government was committed to meeting the targets outlined in the Millennium Development goals - including cutting poverty by half.
Despite an economy that has shed 208000 jobs in the first quarter of this year, Manuel insisted the government was forging ahead with its plan to create 500000 jobs by Christmas - as outlined by Zuma in his state of the nation address.
The minister said the immediate challenge for the government was to fast-track these projects to counter the global economic downturn.
The country's economic recovery plan, spurred by the R787billion stimulus, also relies on the infrastructure programmes getting off the ground.
Outlining his planning department's medium-term strategic framework, the minister said the government needed to stimulate job opportunities in the automotive industry, metal fabrication, tourism, clothing and textile industries.
"Focus areas will also include agriculture, public services like health and education, private services such as the financial and other business services."
Outlining the role of the National Planning Commission, Manuel said his department was charged with "improving relations" between the government and ordinary citizens.