zuma urges firms to ask for bailouts

AS South Africa's economy continued to shed jobs, President Jacob Zuma has appealed to the business sector to apply for government bailout packages instead of retrenching workers.

The government has allocated R6,1billion to bail out companies placed in distress by the economic recession but companies have only applied for R1,1billion of this from the Industrial Development Corporation.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of Business Unity South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre yesterday, Zuma said he was saddened that even the jobs that were created during the last quarter of last year had been lost in the first quarter of this year.

The president warned that the impact of the recession was likely to lead to more jobs being lost in the local economy.

He urged the business sector to seek government assistance and funding and only retrench workers as a last resort.

"We have developed and introduced a range of interventions, including programmes to help firms avoid retrenchments," Zuma said.

"These programmes are still running at the IDC and the CCMA.

"I urge all employers who might still face the prospects of layoffs due to the recession to use these facilities that we have created so that they do not have to retrench workers unnecessarily."

Zuma also appealed to the business sector to play a leading role in South Africa's efforts to re-industrialise the economy as outlined in the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

"Business has to help us realise that vision of an industrialised South Africa.

"We need you to establish industries and create decent jobs that would lead to a better life for millions of South Africans."

Ahead of his scheduled state visit to India next month, Zuma also called on local businesses to explore emerging markets in India, Brazil, Russia and China.

Meanwhile, Zuma congratulated newly elected Busa president Futhi Mthoba who replaced Brian Molefe in the organisation following an election yesterday.