Anyone reading the 2015 budget speech of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene would be hard pressed to identify any commitment to increasing South Africa’s competitiveness through investment in the total logistics value chain. Following president Jacob Zuma’s lead in his State of the Nation address, Nene paid scant attention to freight logistics. The word “harbour” is not mentioned once in the speech. “Port” appears in the sentence “Port health services have also been shifted from provinces to the national department”. Nene claimed that there had already been some success in the government’s plan to develop the ocean economy through Operation Phakisa. “Already this has led t investment of R9.6 billion in Saldanha Bay.” “Support for the oceans economy has been allocated R296 million over the next three years. This will enhance our climate change research and management of ocean resources,” he said. Roads received a bit more attention, with the first mention being “roads that are impassable when it rains” as one of the “infrastructure failures” that “many South Africans regularly experience”. The next mention was that R1.8 billion would be spent on the accident prone 120 kilometre-long Moloto road, between Mpumalanga and Pretoria which carries 60 000 commuters a day. Local roads have been packaged together with 220 water and sanitation projects. A total of R80 billion is budgeted for the three.
The next mention is when referring to the Gauteng toll system, which will be undergoing a makeover. Hauliers and transporters will be affected by an increase of 80.5c/litre in fuel taxes, made up of an increase in the Road Fund levy of 50 cents and the general fuel levy of 30 cents a litre. Absa wealth and investments marketer and analyst Chris Gilmore described the increases as “alarming”.
The department of Transport will be establishing a single transport economic regulator by 2019. “The department’s intention is to deal with regulatory shortcomings across the transport sector, which will lead to better pricing and more efficient transport infrastructure and services.” Direct international f lights through Eastern Cape airports remain grounded by the Airports Company of South Africa, which plans to continue investing in Cape Town and OR Tambo, according to the Department of Transport. The company is expecting to issue bonds in 2017/18 to raise funds for the realignment of the Cape Town International Airport runway and the remote aprons at OR Tambo International Airport.
Faced with a crumbling roads network, the South African National Roads Agency will be putting its funding into maintenance rather than new projects, according to the Department of Transport. In its expansion of the national budget the department says “with approximately 75% of the road network that is managed by the agency beyond its designed life, expenditure on goods and services, largely to contractors for road maintenance, is expected to increase to R21 billion in 2016/17.” Total spending is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 0.2% over the medium term as 21 403km of the road network holds active routine maintenance contracts. One twentieth of the budget – or R1.1bn – will be spent on the upgrade of the R573 Moloto Road linking Pretoria and Mpumalanga.
Ten more special economic zones (SEZs) are planned by the department of economic development. In its budget notes the department says the main policy shift in the SEZs isfrom funding operators to funding bulk and shared infrastructure. There are presently five SEZs, at Coega and East London in Eastern Cape, Saldanha Bay in Western Cape, and Richards Bay and Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal. The department says it plans to designate and roll out 10 new SEZs in all nine provinces. Prefeasibility and feasibility studies for the zones will be concluded in 2015/16.