Welcome speech at the launch of the South African chapter of the World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY)

Productivity SA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mothunye Mothiba, welcome speech at the launch of the South African chapter of the World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) on 23 June 2021

Programme Director, Ms. Lalane Janse Van Rensburg
The Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour, Honourable Ms Boitumelo Moloi
The MEC for the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the Eastern Cape, Honourable Xolile Mqatha
The President of The Pan African Productivity Association (PAPA), Mr. David Iigonda
Senior Economist: IMD World Competitiveness Center , Dr. José Caballero
Productivity SA Chief Economist: Productivity SA, Dr Leroi Raputsoane
Representatives of Organised Labour
Representatives of Business and Members of the Business Community.
Representatives of Government and State-Owned Entities.
The Board, Executive Management and Productivity SA staff;
Members of the media;
All stakeholders
Ladies and gentlemen
Good Morning

Programme Director, Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to at the outset tender the apology of the chairman of the board of Productivity SA, Professor Mthunzi Mdwaba (who cannot be with us due to other commitments at the ILO) and the board mem-ber, Ms. Marsha Bronkhorst (who is hospitalized, and we wish her a speedy recov-ery.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are honoured by your presence and participation in this virtual launch of the South African Chapter of the Institute of Management Devel-opment World Competitiveness Yearbook (IMD WCY), 2021 results. Today, the 23rd June 2021 marks the beginning of our journey to reflect on the competitiveness of our country in terms of the four Competitiveness Factors (Government Efficien-cy, Economic Performance, Business Efficiency and Infrastructure), and to craft strategies and plans to improve our global competitiveness ranking over the MTSF 2019 – 2024 and towards 2030 as we implement the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

We are launching The WCY for two consecutive years during a COVID 19 pandem-ic which drastically impacts the economic and labour market systems, thereby stalling the growth of economies globally. Over and above the health crisis wrought by the pandemic, the pandemic has diminished the ability of countries to facilitate a conducive environment in which business can thrive. It is therefore fitting that, The theme for today ‘s event is “South Africa’s competitiveness drops amid the Covid-19 pandemic”. The theme highlights how Covid-19 virus has impacted SA’s Competitiveness.

As we launch this Report, one cannot help it but to echo the thought-provoking words by Simon Newton Dexter, the American statistician that, "The science of sta-tistics is the chief instrumentality through which the progress of civilization is now measured, and by which its development hereafter will be largely controlled." Our convening here as social partners (government, labour, business, and academia) to reflect on the "ability of our country as a nation to create and sustain an envi-ronment that maintains more value creation for its enterprises and more pros-perity for its people" (competitiveness as defined by the IMD) gives meaning to the words of North.

This launch give us an opportunity to reflect on our global competitiveness ranking in 2005, when we ranked among the top 40 most competitive economies at 37 (what was it that we did well compared to other countries), and what happened between 2017 up to 2021 that we find ourselves within the least competitive economies at 62 in 2021 (what is it that we are not doing well compared to other countries). We have lessons to learn from the top ten (10) most competitive economies, most of which are in the Nordic countries (Switzerland (1st), Sweden (2nd), Denmark (3rd),
Netherlands (4th) and Norway (6th) as well as in Asia (Singapore, (5th), Hong Kong (7th), and Taiwan (8th).

Ladies and gentlemen, as we reflect on the report and looking at lessons from other economies, we should do so with a clear understanding of our strength and weak-nesses as a country.

Some of the key objectives and challenges facing South Africa include:

• creating sustainable employment for all and particularly reduce youth unem-ployment
• supporting labour intensive industries via specific development and policy inter-vention
• reducing poverty and inequality
• sustaining investment spending, improving savings, and boosting export indus-tries

I am confident that, if we collectively craft a way forward, we improve on and even better South Africa’s competitiveness position next year, especially given the cur-rent economic conditions where there is improved national and international de-mand for our products, a comparatively stable economic environment, reduced in-flationary pressures, promotion of public and private investment to build capacity, imminent competition in key industries, stable exchange rate, and initiatives to fur-ther develop the skills of our people to expand our asset base.

As we reflect on release of the IMD ranking, which follows on the footsteps of the World Productivity Day on the 20th of June, we should impress it upon our youth who have taken up the challenge to become entrepreneurs and industrialists that, it is through productivity enhancement that the country can see an expansion in in-vestment thereby preserving existing jobs and creating additional job opportunities.

The productivity and competitiveness plans we put in place should call for renewed efforts to boost productivity in a focused and targeted manner, with clear and meas-urable productivity targets and outcomes, and ensure that the set outcomes are closely monitored, and the impact evaluated. The private sector (organised business and organised labour) should be positioned and given the responsibility to drive the productivity agenda, including culture and accountability.

To this end, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to this webinar and thank the IMD, represented by Dr. José Caballero for the monumental work they have performed over the years. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Welcome.