S.African president admits economy ‘extremely weak’

CAPE TOWN, South African President Cyril

Ramaphosa on Thursday described the country's economic outlook as extremely

weak as he vowed to speed up emergency funding for the debtladen Eskom

state power supplier.

Ramaphosa delivered a downbeat economic assessment in his first stateof

thenation address since the ruling ANC party won elections in May.

Our country is confronted by severe challenges. Our economy is not

growing. Not enough jobs are being created. This is the concern that rises

above all others, he said.

Ramaphosa came to power last year and has vowed to revive the economy

after the scandaltainted presidency of Jacob Zuma.

But unemployment remains nearrecord highs and the country's gross

domestic product (GDP) contracted by 3.2 percent in the first three months of


The economic outlook is extremely weak, he said. For growth, we need a

reliable and sustainable supply of electricity.

He warned that Eskom faced serious financial, operational and structural

problems and could currently only meet its financial commitments until


Ramaphosa announced a special parliamentary bill would be introduced to

rapidly allocate a significant portion of the 230 billion rand ($16

billion) needed by Eskom to survive.

Eskom is too vital to our economy to be allowed to fail, he said.

The state utility, which generates 90 percent of the nation's energy, has

debts of $30 billion, and its potential collapse is seen as the biggest

threat to spurring growth in Africa's most developed economy.

'A national crisis'

Eskom imposed a period of rotational power rationing in February, plunging

offices, factories and homes into darkness for long hours and sparking public

anger at the ANC government.

South Africa's unemployment hovers at over 27 percent soaring far

higher among young people.

The fact that the unemployment rate among young South Africans is more

than 50 percent is a national crisis, Ramaphosa said.

More young people are entering the labour force every year The brutal

reality is that when it comes to youth unemployment, we have to run just to

remain in the same place.

The ANC won the May 8 election with 57.5 percent of the vote, its smallest

majority since it led the fight against apartheid rule that was replaced by

multiracial democracy in 1994.

Ramaphosa said he had five major 10year goals: ending hunger, economic

growth outstripping population growth, two million jobs for young people,

every 10yearold being able to read and halving violent crime.

He repeated his pledges to tackle government corruption and said he wanted

South Africa to build a new city from scratch.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, said

the president talks in high dream language and fails to understand South

Africans are living a nightmare.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)