GEORGE NEWS - The new George Mayor, Leon van Wyk, has his eye on the economy of the city. Van Wyk said he would like to see the George economy 20% larger than it is today - and this wish pre-dates Covid-19.
George Herald asked Van Wyk the following question: "If you were given the opportunity to change anything in town, with immediate effect, what would top your list?"
This is his full response:
If we look at George from the perspective of the Municipality and the services it provides, it is clear that the George economy appears to underperform relative to the demands on the budget to deal with the requirements to provide bulk infrastructure (e.g. water, sewerage), refurbish ageing infrastructure and the maintenance requirements of roads, storm water systems, etc. With a larger economy we could arguably achieve more for all.
The 2008/09 economic crisis has had a long-lasting effect on all economies and if George had been able to deliver an additional annual growth rate of 1,5% per annum above that achieved, the economy could have been that much larger, with the benefits flowing to citizens in the form of higher levels of employment and more disposable income.
George is extremely fortunate that the National and Provincial Governments have invested heavily in the Go George bus service to improve the access and mobility of citizens to the economy. I would have liked to have seen an increased level of labour absorption linked to higher passenger usage on the buses.
Increasing the size of the economy can only take place when there is collaboration between government and the private sector. We now need to play catch-up by facilitating collaborative platforms where we discuss what local government can do to attract investment, provide the enabling environment, reduce red tape, support competitiveness and the development of economic sector clusters.
There is so much potential for George to grow as an admired small city. Imagine if we could for example expand our agro-processing footprint, tourism and leisure, business processing, IT and technology, advanced manufacturing, education and other sectors.
With increased economic activity, the multiplier effect will provide job and business opportunities to the benefit of all our communities.
Within each of our economic sectors we should be promoting collaboration to develop the concepts of clusters achieving increased competitiveness. The municipality will be striving to facilitate these processes in the coming months and encouraging businesses to become partners.
Covid-19 has naturally had a further negative impact on the economy and poses huge challenges for both business and the Municipality. We will pro-actively be addressing these issues in the coming weeks.
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