THE government is still committed to halving unemployment and poverty by 2014 despite the global economic downturn.
Outlining the government's Medium Strategic Framework in Pretoria yesterday, Presidency Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel said its main focus was to minimise the impact of the economic crisis on the country's productive capacity, on jobs and on poverty reduction measures.
The economic crisis has so far cost 200000 jobs this year.
"The challenge that presents itself to us is that we cannot continue with the high levels of unemployment ... This is the kind of commitment that we must make."
He said the government's focus would be on creating decent jobs, but that this was not mutually exclusive with President Jacob Zuma's promise to create half a million job opportunities by year's end.
"Though these tended to be short-term and originated from the government's infrastructure building programme, they brought relief to families and therefore the two types of job-creation should be read together", Manuel said.
"In the short run, much employment creation will likely come from activities that depend largely on government spending, especially public-employment schemes based in infrastructure construction programmes and government-supported community service and cultural activities," the framework says.
"The challenge is to fast-track these programmes in order to alleviate the suffering caused by the global economic downturn."
Manuel said low-import industrial activity, such as building houses, should be boosted to help create jobs and new infrastructure projects started to fill the void left by the completion of work for next year's soccer World Cup.
Manuel said the medium-term strategy to create jobs would see the state seek to stimulate the car, chemical, 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."
Manuel said the job creation drive - and the need to improve food security - would likely include an agriculture reform strategy.
"According to the document this will address the mass joblessness and poverty of the former bantustans".
He played down a firm target to get 30% of farm land into black hands by 2014, saying instead the important issue was to ensure that emerging farmers had the means to succeed and that land was used productively.
"We want to look beyond colour," Manuel said.
He reiterated that despite the recession, the government remained committed to planned infrastructure expenditure of about R780 billion in the medium term, but government departments would have to cut unnecessary spending.
Head of policy in the Presidency Joel Netshitenze said he hoped however that even in coming months, departments could identify areas where they could save funds in order to focus more effectively in others. - Sapa