Tourism can be ‘the goose that lays the golden egg’ for KZN’s economy

Democratic Alliance media statement by Ann McDonnell, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on EDTEA

 

Tourism can be ‘the goose that lays the golden egg’ for KZN’s economy

 

Tourism is the goose that can lay the golden egg of an improved economy for KZN and is the industry that is the low-hanging fruit of job creation and inclusive growth in our province. KwaZulu-Natal is a province rich in resources and potential. Our berg/bush/beach offer is unrivalled in the country and we already boast two World Heritage sites with reports that another, linked to the royal heritage we enjoy, is soon to be added. Then there is the news that British Airways has undertaken to fly direct to London from King Shaka International Airport on a weekly basis, bringing numerous positive economic spin-offs for tourism, investment and conference travel.

 

 

The Budget

In terms of the budget, the DA notes this Department’s R247million budget. We look forward to at last seeing fully functional tourism routes featured on tourism itineraries. This applies in particular to our rural areas which are so rich in history.  We are not talking about mere road signs. We are talking about destinations that empower communities who are proud to show their heritage to visitors and who can make a living out of it.

The DA welcomes the addition of air quality monitoring at Ballito and Mandeni. We have also recently received an agreement for monitoring in the Shongweni area.

Still on the subject of Tourism, the DA was saddened to see that a recent Indaba feature in the Mercury newspaper last week did not say one word about our eco-tourism sites which fall under the beleaguered Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.  Ukhahlambe, Isimangaliso are world Heritage sites, not to mention Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, Mkuze and many other destinations.   Why is Tourism KZN not helping to market them? It is clear that urgent intervention is needed here in terms of marketing strategies.

 

 

Risk planning

 

Tourism can and should be KZN’s comparative advantage. But the Department still needs to have a risk plan. This is clear in the case of destinations such as Ugu, which had a major water crisis during the disastrous December 2016 season.  Add to this the water pollution from so many broken sewer treatment works throughout the province, air pollution and the threat of attacks at toll plazas as seen over the Easter and Workers Day weekend. If the N3 is closed, we may as well close too.

The DA challenges MEC Zikalala to prioritize and commit the same amount of time and effort as he does to fighting internal ANC battles to the protection of jobs and our environment.

 

Liquor Authority

 

A look at the KZN Liquor authority shows that its income has dropped from budget expectations by R3 million with numerous different reasons cited for this. The DA has in the past suggested that it would be more practical to charge a small tavern in a rural area much less than a huge liquor outlet in the city – same process and work for more income. A progressive tariff is practical and equitable, just like the gambling and betting licence fee.

 

4th Industrial Revolution

 

In terms of the 4th Industrial Revolution, innovation should be the pillar of this Department. KZN cannot be left behind the rest of SA and the world.  Moses Kotane Institute, an NPO we support should give value for the money. The DA does not recall any great value from this entity. It was supposed to improve STEM education but KZN’s science, maths, economics and maths results remain dismal.

 

This year the EDTEA Department will spend R50million on the Institute in its new role of research capability. The Institute must bring value to the Province in this role. Markets need to be opened to the previously excluded, and Technology must be prioritised as the way of the future. In order to maximize opportunity for the children of KZN we need high speed efficient Data at affordable and accessible rates.

 

 

Red flags everywhere

 

KZN Legislature Members who have been on the capacitation programme at University of Johannesburg will remember our lecturer showing us in the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report for 2017/2018, that South Africa ranked the worst country to invest in because we scored the highest in corruption.

 

They will also remember being told how our country’s reputation had been damaged by the erstwhile President for his and his friends benefit by the blatant theft of billions from our once proud State Owned Enterprises like SAA ESKOM PRASA.  Our country’s debt burden reads like a tragedy. When Zuma came to power the debt ratio to GDP was 23%. Today it is 56% and predicted to be a terrifying 60% by 2023.

 

The DA has pointed out that this year’s National Budget shows state guarantees of R500 billion – R350billion for ESKOM and R120 billion for SAA.   This must end.   We cannot carry on blaming a sluggish economy when we are borrowing recklessly to bail out entities that have been properly and completely captured.

 

As leaders within this province, we should be in mourning for our economy.   There was a time when South Africa was the first choice investment destination for foreign investors into Africa.  It now lags fifth behind Angola, Ruanda, Botswana and Nigeria.   A very red flag MEC Zikalala.

 

We also cannot sustain the debt levels and extremely high cost of public service – Our public wage bill has increased to 12% in the Public sector whereas countries like China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines spend 2-6% of GDP.

 

 

Outcomes vs inputs and our entities

 

Vote 4 of the EDTEA budget sees an increase from R2.788 billion to R3billion, of which R2.099billion is transferred to entities.  The DA wants to see value for money in these entities. We also want to see the Richards Bay IDZ develop and catch up to Dube Trade port and match their job creation outcomes. In the Department’s Annual Performance Plan, 10 000 jobs are envisaged including 8 500 Extended Public Works Programme job opportunities.

 

The DA believes that outcomes rather than inputs should be the measure of budget success. Reports are outputs, but we need to know how effective we are in jobs created – that is outcomes. In terms of Vote 4, the outcomes are many interventions, programmes, tools, and a figure of 1 000 in the category of jobs to be created by the SMMEs we are training and assisting in the incubation period of their development into viable businesses which can employ opportunities.

 

 

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

 

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has taken good care of our biodiversity assets for many years but the budgetary challenge they now face may just be the final nail in the coffin. With 83% of the entity’s budget going to salaries and only 1% to assets, it is impossible to maintain accommodation sites and roads to a standard to attract tourists and bed nights.

 

Commercialisation is not a simple exercise, yet the new Board charged with turning the finances of this entity around appear to have been otherwise occupied, only recently submitting a proposal but without consulting Treasury which has a vital role in the process.

 

Last year the Chief Whip of the Legislature encouraged members of portfolios to invite Boards to portfolio committee meetings if we felt the need. The DA did so in the case of EKZN in July last year when we were concerned about its declining performance. It is now 10 months later and there is still no response. The DA believes that the Board has simply been a spectator in the continuing collapse of their charge with all the financial woes of the entity and the scourge of poaching having escalated.

 

The Board should be charged with maladministration and fired. When the DA raised its deep dissatisfaction with the lack of accountability by this Board, we were told that their term had ended.  Today we warn you that we will be very watchful of the competencies of the new Board. They need to be individuals who have environmental interests, not tenderpreneurs!

KZN’s EDTEA Department is ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of our people. This rests largely on a growing economy. This is the hope of the DA today.

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