Nedlac approves legislation to boost trade and economic growth

Government, labour, business and community representatives in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) have signed off on two pieces of draft legislation which could have a fundamental impact on industrial development, economic growth and trade.

One of the proposed pieces of legislation – the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill – would allow for more flexibility in the establishment of special provincial economic zones, and greatly expand the current concept of industrial development zones.

“The issue of IDZs has been a difficult one for government, and the changes proposed by NEDLAC’s partners would enable the establishment of new economic development zones even in cases where there is no harbour or port,” says NEDLAC executive director Alistair Smith.

“The changes will significantly enhance the policy framework that was developed in the 1990’s around industrial development zones, in that they effectively allow provinces and local authorities to establish their own special economic zones.”

In line with the policy commitment on Decent Work the Bill does not make concessions on any labour legislation in the zones and more broadly, it recognises that all national policies need to be complied with in the zone areas.

Each SEZ will provide a single point of contact for businesses operating within it where they could lodge applications to various government authorities and agencies and to receive information on regulatory requirements from relevant government agencies and authorities. These one stop shops will effectively cut down on administrative burdens and red tape for operators.

The other legislative changes proposed by NEDLAC relate to the Customs Duty Bill and Customs Control Bill, which are intended to improve SARS monitoring of trade activities and to reduce illegal trade activities. It will also assist in boosting trade and investment by providing much more reliable trade data.

The approval of the two reports reflects that “notwithstanding the many tensions that exist, social dialogue does work.” Smith argues, pointing out that discussion on the SEZ legislation was completed in less than three months.

Smith says that now that the parties have signed off on the draft bills, they will be submitted to Parliament for debate.

NEDLAC’s management committee – which includes representatives from all its social partners — have also recommitted themselves to improving the functioning of the institution and comply with the NEDLAC protocol in relation to the timeous debate and approval of policies and legislation.

It also approved the institutions strategic and annual performance plan and budget for 2013. “The annual performance plan recommits the parties to ensure that policies and legislation is dealt with in an effective and expeditious manner in terms of the NEDLAC protocol. This plan seeks to address concerns raised around the length of time policies are debated in NEDLAC”, Smith says.

This is a critical move in establishing NEDLAC’s effectiveness and efficiency when dealing with issues that are placed before it for discussion and negotiation.

Finally, the social partners approved four strategic outcome goals for the institution: promoting economic growth, social equity and decent work, embedding a culture of effective social dialogue aimed at contributing to higher levels of consensus and co-operation between the social partners, promoting effective participation in socio-economic policy making and legislation and ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of NEDLAC.

Smith points out that these strategic goals provide the NEDLAC social partners with a focused programme of work, directed at addressing the critical national challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. They also sharply focused on improving the performance of the Secretariat in supporting NEDLAC’s work. A further key focus of NEDLAC’s work will include improved governance, and particularly strengthening the role of constituency leadership in guiding and expediting the work of the organisation.

For more information, please call Frieda Garvie at NEDLAC on 011-328-4200.