Budget announced amid South Africa praise for BRICS

11:07, April 20, 2011      

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The announcement of two budget allocations for various South African government departments bodes well for the country and members of the South African parliament praised the BRICS group of nations.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries tabled a 4.7 billion rands (687.3 million U. S. dollars) budget for the next financial year.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson, member of parliament and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries told the South African parliament that 890 million rands (130 million dollars) had been allocated to Agricultural Production, Health and Food Safety, 1.2 billion rands (175 million dollars) to Food Security and Agrarian Reform, 190 million rands (27.7 million dollars) to Trade Promotion and Market Access, as well as 770 million rands (112 million dollars) to the country's Forestry Branch, and 324 million rands (47 million dollars) to Fisheries Management.

"We have seen food shortages and where rising food prices have sparked unprecedented uprisings in some parts of the world. Alleviating poverty by increasing the productive capacity of some of the poorest parts of the country is one of the most effective ways of mitigating the effects of high global food prices, and we are striving to do just that," she told parliament.

South Africa is not alone in this, she added. "Africa as a whole has some 47 percent of its arable land uncultivated, and a recent Harvard study shows that the continent could increase food production by at least 1.5 percent a year. So, we all have a lot of work to do."

Commenting on South Africa's New Growth Path, which seeks to create 5 million jobs in the next nine years, the Department is expected to create jobs for 300,000 households in agricultural smallholder schemes, plus a further 145,000 jobs in agro- processing by 2020.

In the medium-term, the department has committed to creating 130,000 jobs in agriculture, forestry and fisheries by 2014, and to establish 50,000 commercially-oriented smallholder farmers.

"We are in the process of launching a plan for smallholder farmers to improve access to finance, to markets and market infrastructure, as well as to water resources; on improving extension and technical support, including access to mechanized services; and locates these initiatives within the context of a sustainable agro-ecological approach to agriculture," Joemat- Pettersson said.

Commenting on South Africa's recent inclusion in the BRICS nations, she said from a South African agriculture, forestry and fisheries perspective, the significance of joining the BRICS group is the improved access for the country's exports that it potentially represents to the massive and growing domestic markets of the BRICS partners.

"Moreover, South Africa shares a common aggravation with the unbalanced trade environment created by the enormous farmer subsidy systems that remain in place in Europe and North America, thus joining BRICS helps us add our voice to this urgent call for an international trade system that is fairer to all of our farmers, " she added.

Meanwhile, it was announced on Thursday that the South African Department of Trade and Industry will receive a total of 6.8 billion rands (994 million dollars) in the 2011/2012 financial year, an increase of 592 million rands (86.5 million dollars) compared with last year.

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said his department too would be focusing on the creation of jobs, as stipulated in the New Growth Path.

While there has been some successes, including the investment of 10 billion rands (1.4 billion dollars) in the automotive industry, resulting in the creation of 12,000 new jobs, more needs to be done to reach the 2020 target.

Davies added that South Africa's invitation to join the BRICS group was a major achievement.

"There can be no doubt that BRICS presents new and lucrative markets for South African goods and services, as well as opportunities to implement the National Growth Path policy framework. With almost 2.9 billion people living in those countries, a quarter of the world's land mass, and a combined GDP of some 120 trillion U.S. dollars the BRICS already represent a significant portion of the world's economic activity," Davies said.

Commenting on Davies' statement, the ACDP party said that South Africa brings a lot to the BRICS table.

"Clearly, South Africa presents a gateway to the growing African market, with a population of 800 million, and a 1 trillion U.S dollar economy. South Africa has an opportunity to leverage its world-class corporate governance, financial services and technical skills, to reach a higher level of growth," said ACDP spokesman and member of parliament Steve Swart.

Swart added that the further benefit will hopefully lie in building beneficiation industries for South Africa's raw materials.

"South Africa must move away from being an exporter of raw materials to focus on beneficiation. The other BRICS countries focus on the finished products business, and we can undoubtedly learn from them. Let us however be proud of the fact that we have been accepted into BRICS membership, which is a major achievement for the country," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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