South Africa would have to seriously consider investing in infrastructure projects if it wanted to stimulate the economy, leading civil engineer and company executive Coenie Vermaak told a Transport Forum webinar this morning.
Warning that the country was facing massive challenges that would burden generations for years to come unless they were addressed, the CEO of Quatro Business Solutions used distressing statistics to underscore his concern.
To name but a few: unemployment is at 30.8%, 2.2 million people are losing their work annually, 54.2% of South Africa’s youth are jobless, millions of people are relying on grants to survive, which is unsustainable in the long term, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that is spiralling out of control and gobbling up 62.3% of revenue.
The latter alone, Vermaak said, was currently in excess of R3.7 trillion, accruing interest of about R500 million every day and, by finance minister Tito Mboweni’s own admission, steering the country towards a fiscal cliff.
“If that happens we’ll be downgraded even further.”
And although many feel it’s too late for South Africa to make a U-turn from the calamitous trajectory it’s on, Vermaak illustrated that it was possible to turn the economy around, provided that action was taken to arrest ills such as widespread corruption.
Using aerial slides of what Gauteng looked like in the vicinity of the Allandale interchange between Johannesburg and Pretoria, he showed how the R45-billion Waterfall development had completely transformed open land north of Buccleuch.
Job creation alone from this development, Vermaak emphasised, had resulted in 36 000 people finding work through Waterfall.
Just looking at the transport sector, he identified significant examples of why South Africa would require much-needed infrastructure spend.
The country’s 750 000 kilometres of road are in urgent need of maintenance if we want to carry on trucking – as a manner of speaking.
Compare annual maintenance costs of R186 billion to the replacement value of R2.75 trillion if our road infrastructure is allowed to continue deteriorating, and it becomes a no-brainer that taking care of what we already have could actually create jobs and save the country money, Vermaak argued.