State aid for small businesses

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has set aside R152million for small business funding in an effort to promote entrepreneurship and slash poverty.

Patel presented the details of his department's R418million budget in Parliament yesterday.

Tasked with solving the problems of the 5,8million South Africans without work, Patel said the small business funds would be transferred to Khula Enterprise Finance and the South African Micro-Finance Apex Fund to provide loans for the unemployed.

Patel said the Competitions Commission would get an extra R102million to strengthen its ability to investigate price-fixing companies who are being investigated for colluding to set unaffordable prices for bread, dairy products and even bank charges.

He set aside another R2million for new policy on green jobs.

"The green economy in China is reported to already employ more than 1,1million workers and is growing by 100000 new jobs a year," Patel said.

But the details about green jobs for South Africans will only be revealed in June when Patel's department presents its proposal to the Cabinet.

He also announced a new heavyweight panel of people who will advise him, including former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, former president Thabo Mbeki's economist Neva Makgetla and several bankers and academics.

A new office on local procurement with its own budget of R3,8million will be set up to promote projects that buy goods locally.

Cope MP Smuts Ngonyama welcomed the amount of money that Patel allocated the Industrial Development Corporation and Khula Finance.

A sceptical Bantu Holomisa of the UDM said: "Changing economic policies whenever a new minister is appointed is not helpful.

"The only people who benefit are consultants."