Initiative to create and save new jobs

THE South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has announced a bold initiative to save and create new jobs in the new year.

The chamber said yesterday it would approach its 17000 members, made up of large corporations and small businesses, to come up with innovative ways of creating new employment in the face of the recession and looming electricity tariff increases.

SACCI chief executive Neren Rau said the chamber had lost "hundreds" of members to the recession and expects to see many more shutting down when Eskom begins implementing the 35percent a year electricity price increases over the next three years.

He said: "Electricity and jobs are our major concerns going into the new year. We'd like to bring good news, but there is a cloud hanging our heads that a million jobs will have been lost in 2009."

Rau said lower income consumers and small businesses would be more affected by power hikes than higher income earners and large corporations.

The SACCI November Business Confidence Index was 84,1 points, an improvement from October's 82,2.

While this was higher than the March low of 78,9, it was still lower than September's 85,5.

The index has been on the decline since June 2007.

Rau said recent improvements in the index were not necessarily an indication that the economy was on its way to recovery.

He said: "The economy has been making progress, but very often we find that its one step forward and two steps back. While fourth quarter GDP for this year will be positive, we are very likely to see further negative GDP growth.

Prier du Plessis, chairperson of Plexus Asset Management, said he was optimistic that the South African economy had bottomed out.

"There is definite evidence of expansion in both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors and all indications are that this is likely to continue, at least for the next few months," Du Plessis said.

Jac Laubscher, Sanlam group economist, said the solution to rising job losses required a revised government economic policy that would create new wealth rather than redistributing existing wealth, as has been suggested.

He said: "South Africa's employment statistics want to suggest that job opportunities in the informal sector are of equal value, but this is an illusion."