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Staff Reporter

Premier Sisi Ntombela has singled out youth unemployment as one of the major problems facing the Free State at a time the province’s economy is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her opening remarks at the two-day Executive Council Budget Lekgotla that started on Tuesday in Bloemfontein, she challenged the provincial government to come up with solutions to the province’s socio-economic challenges.

“The majority of the population in our province are young people – this army of unemployed youth is a ticking time bomb, which can explode at any given moment if we do not respond to the immediate challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ntombela warned.

“I therefore implore you to make this two-day lekgotla a turning point in the socio-economic direction of the province.”

Youth unemployment in the Free State is estimated at about 55 percent, while the official expanded unemployment rate for all age groups in the province stood at 45.8 percent in the third quarter of 2021.

“Our people look up to this leadership collective to extricate them out of the morass of poverty they find themselves in,” Ntombela said.

“We dare not fail them, particularly at this difficult moment when many of them have lost their jobs and are living under extreme conditions of poverty.”

The workshop – which is being attended by MECs, heads of departments and key treasury officials and other government personnel including chief financial officers and procurement specialists – seeks to ensure that budgeting and spending across departments is coherent, reliable, ethical meets the needs of the citizens of the province.

“As we plan and coordinate, let us ensure that we do so using the cluster approach, to ensure that we execute our responsibilities against the priorities we have set ourselves,” the premier said.

“We must develop innovative ways to stimulate our economy and strengthen confidence in our ability to adhere to a fiscal consolidation path, improved efficiency of expenditure, whilst strengthening our revenue mobilisation strategies,” she added.

“We need to ensure that our provincial priorities are in line with the national priorities in an effort to provide effective and efficient services to our people through an integrated and complimentary approach.

“We are mindful of the devastating impact which COVID-19 pandemic has caused to our economy – unfortunately, we have to continue providing the much-needed quality services to our people and place our economy in the correct path, under what we have come to characterise as the new normal.”

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