The greatest achievement of this department was to hold a successful economic indaba that brought together labour, government and business following a crippling strike season that was the worst in years, a downgrading of South Africa`s economic rating and the near-collapse of the mining sector.
The indaba produced a comprehensive battle plan to regenerate confidence in the economy as well as obtain commitment to and define ideas to promote economic growth, create jobs and ensure general stability.
The presidential infrastructure co-ordinating commission was launched this year following the president`s State of the Nation address, in which it was punted as the new big idea for the economy.
The department also believes that the opening of a new taxi assembly plant in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, as well as other similar ventures will lead to thousands of jobs being created. The taxi plant created an initial 470 jobs.
Although critics question its impact on future investment, the department believes its appeal to the Competition Appeal Court to force Walmart to set up a R200-million supplier development fund as a condition for acquiring Massmart was a great victory in protecting local industry.
Patel continues to punt the new growth path, released in December 2010, with the aim of creating five million jobs by 2020. But it is clear that the ANC and the government are moving towards supporting Trevor Manuel`s national development plan.
The question about the exact role of the department in relation to economic development is still unanswered. Essentially, the story is about Patel`s upbeat pronouncements about future job prospects against the reality of increasing unemployment and the question of what exactly he does for a living.
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