Tag Archive | DTI

Parliament thrashes out debt relief Bill

Credit Regulator calls for defined debt relief… 

MacDonald Netshitenzhe, of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has told parliamentarians that his department in general endorses the call  by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) for the Minister of Trade and Industry to provide for debt relief provisions under the National Credit Act (NCA). The call will be answered by a Bill generated by Parliament because of its cross-cutting nature.

DTI’s input came after the portfolio committee last year held two meetings on the debt situation in South Africa, following a decision taken earlier in the year to gain input from the public and appropriate state entities on the possibility of debt forgiveness.

Parliamentary initiative

The parliamentary subcommittee, formed by Joan Fubbs (ANC), chair of the Trade and Industry Committee, was established last year to investigate possible debt relief systems for over-indebted households. The objective was to provide with consultation for as many parties as possible and to obtain a legal background to enable debt relief regulations to be drafted as an extension of the NCA.

It was tacitly accepted at the time that the result of the investigation would turn out to be a parliamentary committee Bill drafted on the subject to amend the anchor Bill after an initial policy review was carried out on indebtedness nationally. Documents before MPs showed that the World Bank had noted that South Africans currently owed R1.63-trillion to lenders and SA consumers were the most indebted in the world.

Basics

To draft the Bill, it was agreed that technical support would be given by DTI and that a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIAS) was to be undertaken when the Bill was agreed as a completed draft.

Meetings on debt relief have been held by the parliamentary subcommittee with South African Reserve Bank, the Financial Services Board, the National Credit Regulator (NCR) and the National Consumer Commission. Already implemented are revised cuts in interest and fees and the well publicised garnishee order changes for public servants.

National Treasury is also working on a draft Insolvency Bill with Department of Justice (DoJ) and input from DoJ has included the Debt Collectors Amendment Bill and the Courts of Law Amendment Bill both now before the PC on Trade and Industry, in separate meetings.

Debt relief per se

In recent meetings, Netshitenzhe who is Chief Director of Policy and Legislation at the DTI, when asked to contribute to the sub-committee’s work, outlined first whom he thought debt relief should apply to.    He replied that DTI recommended that such relief could be for retrenched consumers, victims of unlawful emolument attachment orders (EAOs), victims of unlawful social grant deductions and victims of reckless credit lending.

 

In answer to questions, it was explained that an EAO, more commonly known as a garnishee order, was a deduction by an employer from a wage as distinct from the more sophisticated administration order where an appointed administrator paid one or more creditors from an allocated sum for which a fee was charged.

Flexibility

In expanding on debt levels generally and in talking on counter measures, Netshitenzhe said the position on levels of debt that were currently being experienced would not always be the same and therefore, in allowing the Minister to provide debt relief measures in some form, DTI recommended that it be understood right from the start that the provisions could altered from time to time and the position should remain fluid.

It was DTI’s view that the Minister of Trade & Industry should consult carefully with the appropriate members of the credit industry before drafting the first such amendments in the form of the Bill and making any subsequent changes later. Naturally, he said, National Treasury had to be drawn into the debate immediately.

Domestic debt targeted

As well as providing remedies for household debt relief, strong counter measures also should be adopted, he said, in cases where indebtedness resulted from the behaviour of unscrupulous credit providers. This had become a major problem in SA.

Parliamentarians were told that over-indebtedness had worsened with the slowdown in economic growth and ever-increasing joblessness. Some 40% of the 24m credit card consumers had currently an “impaired record”, which was defined currently as three or more months in arrears or were listed with a credit bureau or who had been subject to a court judgement or administration order.

Causes

Consumer over-indebtedness resulting from prejudicial behaviour by unscrupulous credit providers, he said, was a further major problem, followed by borrowers borrowing more to redeem debt with no checks being carried out by lenders.

In outlining DTI plans, Netshitenzhe said that proposals may have to be provided to alleviate or support those in debt for reasons to be defined and the State therefore would no doubt need to establish a fund reserved for debt relief interventions to either partially or fully pay off the debt of qualifying consumers dependant on their circumstances.

Credit checks

Who qualified for relief of any kind and how to define the circumstances was the next big issue coming under debate. He added that it was DTI’s view that the possibility had to arise whereby credit providers should provide debt relief to over-indebted consumers who have already paid “a significant portion” of their debt. This whole concept had to be fleshed out, he inferred.

At that stage, Opposition members welcomed the propositions in general but were deeply concerned, as were many parties, that the very offer of forgiveness of debt might provide encouragement of reckless borrowing or spending. They wanted to see strong counter measures in the form of affordability assessments when credit was granted.

National Treasury

In a follow-up meeting led again by Chair Joan Fubbs with National Treasury (NT), MPs were told by Katherine Gibson, Senior Adviser for Market Conduct at Treasury (who also handles Twin Peaks regulatory measures) that in economic terms, further research was needed to determine the impact of possible debt relief packages which as an outcome, she said, could heavily impact on retailers and microlenders.

Treasury, she said, had previously introduced a debt amnesty to assist poor and indebted consumers and they also were considering many options including ‘extinguishing’ some or all of debt to help people get a fresh start. “However, the underlying principle that if a person can pay, he or she should pay is adopted at Treasury in all considerations”, she said.

Early days

Ms Gibson told MPs that such research was essential since the impact of any kind of debt relief packages was likely to affect retailers and microlenders which could have a knock-on effect of further inability for consumers to access credit. This would, in turn, cause further “worst case scenarios” pushing the more desperate creditor into the hands of illegal

operators. In all considerations, protecting the poor and focusing on the poor was paramount, she said.

In her briefing, she noted that whilst the new requirement that registration of credit providers applied to only those granting credit of over R500,000 or at least 100 agreements, reckless lending was playing a large role in the deterioration of household debt.

Overload

Ms Gibson said it also concerned Treasury that a great number of credit providers had provided credit to already totally over-indebted consumers and had failed to conduct affordability assessments. To this end government, through the Treasury, had appointed a service provider (consultant?) to investigate all EAOs issued to public sector employees.

The service provider had tested the EAOs against various parameters and the credit provider involved was asked to withdraw the arrangements if certain criteria could not be met.

Overhaul

The next phase, said Ms Gibson, was to check on the types and details on EOUs that were currently being applied. It had been noted in discussion with paymasters in government service that employees with the largest level of exposure had instalment values ranging between R1 200 and R6 500.

The state departments with the largest number of EOUs were the SA Police Service (SAPS), followed by the Department of Education, the Department of Health and then the Department of Correctional Services. SAPS also had the largest exposure of different types of credit providers, she said.

Ms Gibson commented, in answer to questions from MPs, that mostly credit providers had corrected their processes and credit arrangements voluntarily after an enquiry by the team investigating. Those not doing so were now subject to litigation in court. This was happening across the various state departments but in answer to a question, Ms Gibson said she was not referring to SOEs.

In need

She also identified many areas where Treasury agreed in principle with DTI as to who were the groups were most likely to receive relief in the final analysis.

These categories were those who had no money or assets; those who had low income and low assets but according to circumstances needed relief; those who had been defrauded and those who clearly had no basic understanding or capability to understand what they were signing because of lack of explanation, lack of understanding of a financial arrangement or lack of a needs assessment.

Any international precedents on the issue of whom should be assisted that had taken placed in developing countries should sought, said Ms Gibson. She said she understood this was in process at DTI.

Debt clearance

Treasury had stated that a procedure must be established, she said, whether the debt was to be written off completely; whether it should be restructured; whether write-off should apply to people who were poor and whether the credit should never have been given in the first place and therefore how it was granted followed up on.

Other cases could involve people who were only insolvent for the moment and therefore needed only a debt restructuring plan to tide over. MPs flagged that they saw problems ahead with instituting such processes in practice but would await a further briefing from DTI and take matters up with them.

OK so far

Ms Gibson concluded that Treasury had already found it had common ground with DTI about debt relief. She acknowledged that the tailoring of measures to meet the circumstances was going to be difficult but most important was to install simplistic check systems.

However, she said, it was also important to control better with strict applications any credit availability and to “change the behaviour of reckless borrowers.” She understood that education processes were to be organised by DTI for borrowers on the subject of borrowing without conscience or thought of the implications of debt.

Big stuff

Chair Joan Fubbs explained to members that the whole issue of mortgages, secured loans, various banking arrangements and pawning were not discussed at this stage, this being left to further final debate and parliamentary presentations after the parliamentary recess in August.

Many inputs have, however, have already been made by the banking industry, business entities and employee representatives during initial discussions but with no draft Bill as a consideration.

Finance Regulatory Bill

Ms Gibson added that much would change upon the implementation of the “Twin Peaks” banking and finance institutional programme where Treasury’s influence upon the banking industry and debt collectors in general would come into play.

Legislation is being concluded by DG Roy Havemann of Treasury, she said, and “Twin Peaks” would change the aspect that the Treasury did not have the power to monitor debt collectors and banks but would have so shortly.

She said the banks had been highly co-operative but had expressed deep concern over long term debt effects and its effects on banking costs, as distinct from immediate short-term relief most of which was in place already as far as consultation with their own clients was concerned

However, she said, the proposed impact assessment on debt relief to attempt to measure outcomes on the proposals for both the private sector and public service sectors was now essential.

Final mix

In conclusion, she said that there was a need for correlated action by all role players since there were many different players, consumer groupings and regulators involved and the views must be heard again of the various entities granting and dealing with credit when the Bill is in final stages of the Bill.

Consumer bodies dealing with debt relief should also be asked to comment, she said. Ms Gibson concluded by saying that there had to be a better understanding how debt was incurred by different South African groupings, why it was so easily incurred and to identify the most appropriate remedies and options that were available to various groups and cultures.

PMQ & A

Questioning from MPs was direct bearing in mind that the proposed Bill was to be a parliamentary submission for tabling. One MP noted that most debtors were litigating against creditor providers whereas it was the collector, such as a state department, that had wittingly or unwittingly entered an illegal garnishee and not necessarily the credit provider.

It was also suggested as not ideal that in some retail-to-consumer arrangements, the credit provider sold the debt to the debt collector in the first place. Then it was the debt collector who arranged the garnishee order and worked on a collection fee.

Ms Gibson responded that this kind of situation had to be accepted and, furthermore, it was not of consequence, providing the credit provider who granted the credit was registered and obeyed the rules and the arrangements fell inside of what was to be allowed in the Bill.

Dave Macpherson (DA) asked about the progress regarding the fraudulent EAOs and asked for a list of the deregistered credit providers who were still operating despite the restraint. Ms Gibson said she would supply such a list to the committee which would be confidential but such a list existed.

Debt collectors

Ms Nomsa Motshegare, Chief Executive Officer: National Credit Regulator (NRC), also said that the “policing” of credit providers could not be controlled with existing legislation but that on the sale of debt, debt collectors were required to register with the NCR to allow monitoring. NCR had a mandate to ensure that the purpose of pensions should not be to pay off debt but to cater for retirees’ welfare

Charmaine van der Merwe, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, entered the discussion to say that not everything that debt collectors did was illegal, by any means, but it was incumbent upon any regulated debt collection profession to reported shady arrangements in credit provision, especially if it involved a legal application.    Sadly, she said, reckless lending could not be reported because it was a matter of opinion and in most cases the facts were unavailable to governance authority.

Learning money

Chairperson, Joan Fubbs asked for the number of teachers involved in debt education in government service since there were many consumers who resigned from the workplace in order to cash in their pensions and pay off debts resulting in skills being lost to the country. Ms Gibson advised that this was a problem that existed throughout South Africa and in any country.

On the issue of rigged auctions, which subject had arisen in earlier meetings, Fubbs said, that although banks were proven to be complicit in some cases, consumer conduct needed also to be addressed in this area since consumer fraud and unmanageable debt had arisen. The committee said this would have to be once again investigated.

Around in circles

MPs warned that in providing for stricter conditions on loans, it might become more difficult for the poor to secure credit. Chairperson Joan Fubbs said that all were aware of this problem but she charged that the most serious issue facing her Committee were poor people losing their homes because they had become jobless, a poor economic climate and unavoidable debt with school fees added to food costs. Frivolous debt was not the issue under discussion, she said.

Department of Justice will now see through the associated Bills and the question of debt relief moves to a final wording with approval of Treasury and ending with hearings. Being a parliamentary Bill, the NEDLAC process will be short-circuited.
Previous articles on category subject
Treasury proposals on debt control approved – ParlyReportSA
Credit regulations to squeeze racketeers – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Finance, economic, Labour, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Credit regulations to squeeze racketeers

Debt relief and credit under microscope

… sent to clients 22 Dec 2016…. Further powers for the National Credit Regulator to regulate against reckless lending have been reaffirmed as necessary and the subject of debt relief for needy persons considered.

This conclusion was the result of a series of hearings conducted by Parliament and criteria are to be developed for the application of debt relief measures and how this could be achieved are now being studied.

Such criteria could include target groups of debtors who would be eligible for the relief; the period in which the measure would apply; the type of debt that would be covered and how the measure could be implemented.

An earlier study, commissioned by the National Credit Regulator (NCR) some months ago, concluded that there was a need for the National Credit Act to make provision for the introduction of some form of national debt relief but the NCR decided to consult Parliament and to involve public input.

Growing debt bubble

Whilst reckless lending and irresponsible borrowing which led to the disastrous housing bubble in the US, Joanna Fubbs, as chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, acknowledged that the situation regarding any retail debt bubble is not as bad in SA.   Nevertheless, she said that for some time she has been concerned that the National Credit Amendment Act is not working in the best interests of vulnerable groups.

On the issue of debt relief, whether from reckless lending or not, it was agreed some time ago by the Committee that it was important for stakeholders to be consulted to establish a better picture.  A parliamentary select committee, chaired by MP Eddie Makue of the same Committee, was formed to investigate whether debt relief would be an acceptable policy for SA and to organise parliamentary hearings focusing on banking input and debt control aspects.

The brief

The Portfolio Committee also recommended to this subcommittee that there needed to be a better understanding between the excesses of lending, the plight of borrowers and a view established on regulations which should refrain from fostering any culture of not paying debt in the hope that it might be written off.

Meanwhile, it has been proposed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to extend the powers of the National Credit Regulator to conduct proactive investigations into reckless lending . They would also be asked to impose administrative fines and to empower the Minister to provide debt relief mechanisms through further regulations, yet to be drafted.

Also, NCR submitted that it had already laid out its own proposals to tighten up existing regulations and penalties for perpetrators of reckless lending which the Regulator was currently entitled to enforce under the Act but the views of the Regulator were to be sought on debt relief by Makue’s Committee.

DTI view

DTI has since confirmed to this Select Committee that it was their view was that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, should be given the power to prescribe debt relief measures, the nature of which must be carefully thought through . At the time, DTI acknowledged that banks and credit providers had to make their views known preferably in a series of hearings now conducted.

NCR view

National Credit Regulator, Nomsa Motshegare, has confirmed to the Select Committee that in their view some form of debt relief is necessary given the reasons of the country’s slow economic growth; retrenchments that were taking place; and rising unemployment figures.

In general, she said, these factors had already diminished household income and led to difficulty for consumers to repay loans.   The NCR had found, they said, that there was a willingness in general amongst banks to find ways to relieve the financial burden of indebted clients, many of them stating that they did this already, but there was considerable doubt on whether this should or could be backed up by any enforcement measures and regulations.

 The banks

In this regard, during further public hearings, Cas Coovadia of the Banking Association of SA (BASA) emphasised that legislated debt relief for all would have negative consequences since this was far too prescriptive. He  called for “a customised debt relief approach that would suite various portfolios” as a better principle to follow.

At the outset of the discussions, Coovadia stated that BASA did not support the principle of debt forgiveness as an objective.  One of the banking system’s foundation principles, he said, was the need to efficiently and legally lend money to borrowers and to collect repayments from borrowers to settle the loans.

He told parliamentarians. “A confluence of pricing, regardless of individual consumer risk, will arise at a portfolio level to offset the inability to price for the risk.    This will mean that consumers who have a good repayment history will no longer be rewarded for such behaviour when they apply for further credit.”

He warned that blanket debt forgiveness would accelerate irresponsible borrowing and said all banks offered means to repay and gauged the circumstances when lending.   Any failure to perform on this principle would have severe consequences for the industry and economy; would increase risk to depositors/savers; would impose a cost on society; and would limit credit providers’ ability to extend credit, he said.

Making a plan

Nedbank said that the option of rehabilitation was always a preferred course rather than hard legal collections and the bank had recently adopted a philosophy in general banking terms that to become proactive in terms of debt relief solutions was the far better solution for those who had over-extended themselves.

They said the situation between credit provider and consumers should remain “mutually beneficial”, which principle bore in mind that the economy of the country was less affected.   Nedbank confirmed that a satisfactory low, in their view, of 4.6% of their clients could be classified as technically in total default without the any possibility of rescue, as at the end of 2015.

Too prescriptive

Individual banks, such as Standard Bank, Absa, First Rand, Capitec and African Bank generally supported BASA’s view that prescriptive laws or regulations regarding lending, collection and debt relief would remove the principle of case by case treatment which in turn, they said, would probably inhibit loans being granted or drive up their cost

Debt and labour

Chamber of Mines was blunter and took the view that employee over-indebtedness was a major problem in labour relations and “fed into unrealistic wage demand” scenarios.  Indebtedness, they said, was one of the major catalysts in recent mining unrest.

They were clear that education on family accounts and the implications of over borrowing had to be stepped up, rather than complicated prescriptive measures on relief that would favour one and not the other.  More important they said was that loan sharks should brought under control and whose malpractices were rife amongst the mine working community.

Ms Sue Fritz, speaking for the Chamber, said that any form of debt relief provisions must consider the danger of undermining the basic principle that with the ability to borrow came the understanding such debt had to be repaid or quality lending would cease and debt might increase.

Cosatu view

Cosatu’s Matthew Parks urged that some form of debt relief be provided to a defined base of categories, such as retrenched workers; those only on social grants; the poor; working-class and middle-class students with student loans and borrowers who had paid off a large part of a loan but fallen on hard times. He also appealed to parliamentarians that there was a need to crack down on loan sharks, formal and informal.

Paul Slot, speaking as president of the Debt Counsellors Association, said some form of debt relief was necessary to counter the current high level of household debt, noting that according to the association, 54% of those in financial trouble simply applied for more debt to extricate themselves.

Conclusions in process

The Select Committee has now made a call upon on the National Credit Regulator to tighten regulations further on loan sharks and the registration process.  Chairperson Eddie Makue has now reported back on the hearings to the Portfolio Committee but has noted in Parliament that he was deeply concerned that a large amount of vulnerable people remain exposed to unregulated credit and can become victims purely because of greed alone on the part of the lender.

On reckless lending, it was noted that often ridiculously high repayments from the poor were a weapon used to gain control of assets.    Makue said, “The NCR has to protect poor South Africans against such lending by unregistered and immoral micro-lenders.   In most rural and semi-urban areas people maintain their existence through borrowing and the interest they sometimes get charged is shocking, and interest rates should be capped by law”, Makue said.

State debt relief and debt relief regulations

The “jury is still out” therefore for 2016 on the issue of DTI tabling a Bill and the subject of debt relief generally.

Parliament closed 7 December and will resume this debate early in 2017

 Previous articles on category subject

National Credit Act Bill aims to help consumers – ParlyReport

Treasury proposals on debt control approved – ParlyReportSA

National Credit Amendment Bill changes – ParlyReportSA

 

Posted in Finance, economic, LinkedIn, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Liquor licensing may have impractible conditions

DTI gets tough with age limits

...sent to clients 17 Oct…..   In what will be a tough ask, Minister of Trade and Industry, Robliqour-store Davies has proposed a number of changes to the National Liquor Act, the most contentious being to raise the legal minimum age for purchasing liquor from 18 to 21 years of age. The call for public comment on the draft National Liquor Amendment Bill as gazetted closed on 30 October.

The Department and Trade and Industry (DTI), who deal with liquor licensing at a national level, state that South Africa has globally the worst figures for alcohol related accidents and anti-social incidents involving liquor abuse.

Drastic steps had to be taken to gain control of alcohol related injuries, illnesses and abusive behaviour that were costing the state some R40bn a year, the Minister said.

Younger age groups

The Bill focuses specifically on youth since DTI maintains that alcohol abuse specifically damages the development of the brain making youth vulnerable. Liquor advertising aimed specifically at young persons will be prohibited under the Act and revised rules set down on broadcast times and content. Advertising billboards aimed at youth will be banned from high density urban areas.

Minister Davies called for “robust public engagement on the issues raised in the Bill” as it dealt with matters “that are of significance to South African society.” He noted that South Africans consume alcohol related products at double the world average rate.

On the question of the age threshold proposed in the draft Bill is a minimum purchasing age, not as has been widely reported a “minimum drinking age”. The onus of establishing age will fall upon the supplier who must take “reasonable steps to establish age” when dealing with a young purchaser.

Pressure point

A civil liability will now fall upon the manufacturers and suppliers as well who knowingly breach the new regulations, Minister Davies said, believing that this was the only way to get the problem understood and the new rules adhered to.

sab-youth-beer-adThe draft Bill states that responsibility will also fall upon the seller not only not to supply liquor to a person visibly under the influence of alcohol but that the seller could be in addition asked to show reason why they should not bear costs for damage incurred as a result of a subsequent accident involving that person who made the purchase.

On the problem of community issues, such as tackling foetal alcohol syndrome which is considerably worse in South Africa than elsewhere in the world and alcohol related crime, the onus of proof will shift not only to a supplier but also to manufacturers to show that reasonable steps were taken to ensure that liquor is not sold to illegal or unlicensed outlets. Which brings up the issue of liquor licences.

Distance from community

Licensing is a provincial matter and there are a number of changes that the amending Bill police-raidwill make to the anchor Act which will have to be abided by. Particularly notable is the proposal that licences cannot be granted to an outlet less than 500 metres from any school, recreation facilities and places of worship.

Provinces are stated as “having an obligation” to be far stricter in granting licences in highly urbanised areas, giving due regard for the need for stricter business hours and for the need to deal with noise pollution in stressful living conditions.

Previous articles on category subject
New health regulations in place soon: DoH – ParlyReportSA
Licensing of Businesses Bill re-emerges – ParlyReportSA
Medicines Bill : focus on foodstuffs – ParlyReportSA

Posted in Justice, constitutional, Security,police,defence, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

NRCS hammered over port delays

NRCS admits failure to meet LOA targets

…..sent to clients 16 Oct…...The National Regulator for Compulsory Specificationsasogan-moodley (NRCS), responsible for the issuance of letters of authority (LRAs) to complete import certification of imports in respect of critical safety regulations, came under intensive fire in Parliament from MPs across all party lines.

This included a warning from Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Joan Fubbs, that the NRCS failure to meet its annual targets, particularly bearing in mind such targets were set by themselves, was not acceptable.

Chair Fubbs told CEO Asogan Moodley of NRCS his agency was “a blot on the otherwise excellent annual performance of the Department of Trade Industry (DTI)”, NRCS being the only one of the seventeen DTI entities to receive a qualified annual report from the Auditor General’s office for the past year.

Durban is problem area

sars-warehouse-durbNRCS has a mandate to provide LOAs for clearing goods for sale or service in various categories of goods imported into South Africa, with the port of entry of Durban providing most of the problems in supplying the necessary LOAs. Chair Fubbs said that the poor performance already shown in the first quarter of the current financial year did not auger well for any change in the immediate future. This cannot be the case, she warned.

NRCS divides imports into the main categories of automotive including all components; chemicals, materials and mechanicals; electro-technical including IT and electronic appliances and food in the form of fishery products, canned meat and processed meat. NRCS also ensures standards on building supplies and checks calibration and checks of weights and measuring equipment supplies, including gaming equipment.

Massive backlogs

CEO Moodley told parliamentarians that outstanding LOAs over the recognised maximum period of 120 days were, at worst, 191 days – where 179 consignments were involved. In all some 1,500 consignments exceeded 120 days across all imports at various ports of entry, he said. The worst failures to supply import LOAs were in respect of electrical goods, IT appliances, vehicles and automotive parts.

All imports were checked on a “risk-based approach” and dived into low-risk, medium-risk andcargo-vessels-durban high-risk as far as consumers were concerned. Target turnaround time, after inspection and issue of relative LOAs, was respectively 75 calendar days for low-risk, 90 calendar days for medium-risk and 120 calendar days for high-risk.

Asogan Moodley emphasised that a major problem had been that DTI had changed working days into calendar days which had overtime connotations for NRCS with already limited staffing levels.

The whole truth

Chair Fubbs queried the number of days that cargo was outstanding supplied by NRCS in their annual report, stating that she was aware that the situation was far worse that indicated by NRCS in their presentation. In fact, a number of consignments needed by commerce and industry has been sitting in bond for nearly a year, she said. This was not acceptable, she warned.

warehouseCEO Moodley named his problems in clearing goods as being as being a result of short staffing of expert examiners, who were difficult to find – although some personnel were being trained or re-trained to meet technological changes. Compounding the problem, he said, was the necessity to update the entire NRCS IT ability, which was budgeted for but which had not yet been completed.

He also complained that the volumes of incoming imports and the technical advances represented almost monthly in imported goods were not exponentially related to the growth of NRCS, its skills base and the level of monitoring expertise, particularly at major ports.

IT gear just standing

In respect of the electro-technical category, he said that whilst inspections were up 11% transnet-container-terminalagainst target, the processing of LOAs within the financial year stood at 68% lower than the target for 120 days turnaround. In other instances, inspections carried out at source or at retail level were also short on target level but CEO Moodley assured the Committee that the NRCS had embarked upon a process of implementing a new system of automation and modernisation to improve performance.

He said it would take 18 months to complete such a programme at a total cost of R50m.
Major problems encountered were that certificates of origin supplied by importers which differed when the same goods were subsequently imported resulting in the need for fresh LOAs and that all processes at present were manual which increased load.    He called for the regulations to be changed so that more categories were allowed for so that very low risk products could be handled specifically on a quicker turn-around basis.

Opposition members said that they could not see how this would improve the situation since the problem appeared to be an inability to handle any volumes with untrained staff, whether low risk or high risk.    MPs noted that import bottlenecks were a financial threat to businesses and industry who were reliant on such imports and failure by DTI in this regard led to job losses and low growth.

Technical advances not in tune                nrcs-logo                                    

CEO Moodley and his team of departmental heads went to great lengths to explain the technical variations in international goods and imports coming from various countries that were either substandard or which had wrong documentation. He said that the failure to provide standards for treated timber and safety footwear, for example, had caused a backlog and such issues as non or sub-standard tyres on vehicles had slowed things down in the automotive sector.

He complained that the lack of consistency in supplied products and the constant attempts to short-circuit the system by importers accounted for much of the delay in turnaround.

Where it matters

CEO Moodley said that the electro-technical industries represented an area where most product failures occurred.  He added that the introduction of LED technology had compounded the checks for accuracy and reliability and such issues as compatibility of electrical goods, in many cases portable generators and white goods, had a poor record of power specification labeling and consequent safety in South Africa.

This was a growing problem with many countries who worked to different standards, various plugging methods and a different disclosure ethic.

Warning

durban-port-bigIn conclusion, when the debate was wound up, the Committee noted that a complete change of direction in the methods and ability of NRCS to meet its targets had to be found and that future presentations by NRCS reflecting such dismal results would not be tolerated.

As a result of a number of critical comments from MPs across party lines, the backlog of 1,650 LOAs over 120 days would be tackled, regulator Moodley promised, “by October” but stated this as being with the use of “new inspectors”.

Also, in an effort to speed up the search for unsafe or non-compliant products, there would be no need to obtain a new LOA for additional imports of a product where one had been additionally granted, he said. However, NRCS reserved the right to carry out spot checks.

Consequences

From a subsequent follow-up report in Business Day, it was learnt that DTI had confirmed the resignation of CEO Asogan Moodley and that such a move “had been a decision of Mr Moodley himself”. Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, said he had instructed DTI’s DG, Lionel October, “to engage with NRCS to ensure they meet their targets”.

DTI said that Minister Davies “simply expects management and labour of DTI entities to meet their targets”, referring specifically to LOA targets in the case of NRCS.
Previous articles on category subject
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Border Authority to get grip on immigration – ParlyReportSA
Tax law changes after mid-year budget – ParlyReportSA
New Customs Duty Bill opposed by BUSA – ParlyReportSA

Posted in LinkedIn, Public utilities, Special Recent Posts, Trade & Industry, Transport0 Comments

Government stirs on intellectual property plans

New approach to SA intellectual property 

……sent to clients Aug 1trademark logo6…. The Cabinet has agreed that a new intellectual property (IP) framework is needed and has asked that discussions commence with all stakeholders in order to set out a future IP policy for South Africa.

In 2013 the South African government released a draft IP policy which ran
into heavy weather because of ambiguities and anomalies at law. This previous attempt was rejected by Parliament.

dti-logo2Since that time, the private sector has complained of no movement from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the subject, or even the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Hidden agendas?

Suspicions existed that a lot more was written “between the lines” by DTI in the light of a feeling that government medical authorities, including the Minister of Health and a large number of public sector entities, were favouring the case for making it easier for generics to come on to the market in view of the wish to introduce national health insurance and cheaper medicines.

copyright graphicThe law courts, always sticklers in their respect for the international word of law, favoured, it seemed, external legal international precedent as the basis for a new approach.

Discussions with DTI surrounded their attitudes and their not so transparent views on the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS). However, that approach may have altered with DTI now more openly favouring Bi-lateral Trade Agreements (BITs).

Bad influence

In 2014, the whole question of IP policy became mired in controversy with a statement from a US-based lobby group based from Washington who surprised all by stating they were working with the local pharmaceutical
industry to influence the SA government and also the Department of Health (DOH) in particular in order to gain more ear to the international view. This was subsequently denied by the pharmaceutical world in SA (IPASA).

The whole matter appeared to inflame the incumbent Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who will no doubt be a key player in the new discussions.
After this the 2013 proposals seemed to fall away. Parliamentary hearings were at the time controversial, to say the least.

The major complaints boiled down to the fact that there were no time frames in the government proposals; no regulatory impact assessment had been done; and there was no appearance of a follow through of the effect of the Bill on international commercial ties.

Expert patent lawyers complained of ambiguity and lack of clarity at law.

Where it stood

After some heated debates at the time it appears that TRIPS, despite BITs copyright symboleven then being a new DTI “hobby horse”, has been respected by DTI and the generalised view accepted by most that there would be compulsory local patent registration based on a localised validity acceptance and acceptance by a localised body of all medicines dispensed. The query remained, however, on the skills available to undertake such a policy and time lags.

Whether the originally proposed patents tribunal will have final say in dispute or the High Court of SA will no doubt now be debated, as well as the critical issue of the length and duration of registered patents in a transparent manner with experts and a broad based body to represent the private sector.
As before, probably a “workshop” will be called for to air views.
Previous articles on category subject
Impasse on intellectual property rights – ParlyReportSA
Intellectual property law still in limbo – ParlyReportSA
Intellectual Property Laws Bill goes forward – ParlyReportSA
Medical and food intellectual property tackled – ParlyReportSA

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Border Authority to get grip on immigration

Border controls for trade as well…..

A Bill enabling the formation of an overall border authority to be known as the Border Management Authority has reachedborder lebombo Parliament following its publication for comment last October by the Minister of Home Affairs. The legislation will “allow for the transfer, assignment and designation of law enforcement functions on the country’s borders and at points of entry to this agency.”

The Authority’s objectives include the management of the movement of people crossing South African borders and putting in place “an enabling environment to boost legitimate trade.”  The Authority would be empowered to co-ordinate activities with other relevant state bodies and will also set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle departmental cross-cutting issues, a border technical committee and an advisory committee.

Mozambique border

sa moz logoThree years ago, Kosie Louw, then chief legal officer at SARS, told Parliament that a “one stop border post” to handle customs and immigration was being established at the Mozambique border.

An original document of intention was signed in September 2007 by both countries and consensus on all issues was reached between the two covering all the departments affected by cross-border matters.
Kosie Louw told the standing committee at the time that on finance the benefit of an OSBP was that goods would be inspected and cleared by the authorities of both countries with only one stop, which would encourage trade. In any country, he explained, there had to be two warehouses established, bonded and state warehouses.

Bonded and State warehouses

Bonded warehouses, he said, which were privately managed and licensed subject to certain conditions, were to allow imported goods to be stored temporarily in order to defer the payment of customs duties.

Duties and taxes were suspended for an approved period – generally two years, Louw said, but these had to be paid before the goods entered into the market or were exported. The licensee bore full responsibility for the duty and taxes payable on the goods, which could be removed only after all the customs requirements had been met.

State warehouses on the other hand, Louw said at the time, were managed by SARS for the safekeeping of uncleared,
detained,state warehouse seized or abandoned goods. They provided a secure environment for the storage of goods in which the State had an interest. Counterfeit and dangerous or hazardous goods were moved to specialised warehouses.

MPs noted that it had taken over six years for the Mozambique OSBP to be finalised which to them seemed an unduly long period. The SARS response was that that were many ramifications at international law but he added they had already had two discussions with Zimbabwe at that time.

Slow process

South Africa, he said, was looking at the establishment of more such posts and it was hoped it would take less time to reach an agreement as many lessons had been learnt through the Mozambique experience.

SARS, said losses obviously occurred through customs avoidance and evasion, so it was consequently very difficult tosa border beit bridge provide an overall figure on customs duty not being paid as evasion was evasion. Smuggling of goods such as narcotics, or copper, which could only be quantified on the basis of what had been seized. The same applied to the Beit Bridge border with Zimbabwe, where cigarette smuggling was of serious concern.

The overall principle of what was referred to then as an OSBP was for both countries to have one set of common warehouses for stop, declaration, search, VAT payments to South Africa. involving therefore vehicles going through only one process for both countries.

It seems that the new Bill is building on that experience but the whole process is taking an inordinate period of time put down to the fact that so many departments in two or three countries have to be consulted and consensus obtained.
Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas – ParlyReportSA
Customs Duty Bill cuts out inland ports – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA

 

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International Arbitration Bill to replace BITs

Arbitration Bill gets SA in line with UNCTRAL …..

global trade graphicThe tabling of the International Arbitration Bill in Parliament will see ‘normalisation’ on a number of issues regarding arbitration between foreign companies operating in South Africa. This is if the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) policy recently expressed in Parliament by Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, is to be understood.

The Bill, as is the case with all international legal matters, will  be tabled by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development according to a government notice recently published.      Not all investors are necessarily impressed however, some preferring state-to-state bilateral trade treaties (BITs).   South Africa is now adopting the broader approach adopted by some international countries, including China.

Allowing arbitration outside of local courts

As far as is understood, as non-legal observers, formal agreement on the allowance on arbitration proceduresarbitration according to agreed procedures between trading parties will be instituted and local court procedures can be avoided if so wished.  The fact that South Africa has also very recently announced the launch of the China Africa Joint Arbitration Centre (CAJAC), “symbolising the deepening economic relationship between China and African economies”, seems to provide a background to the proposed Bill.

The route now to be followed by South Africa, it appears, is one of a number of limited ways that can improve access to justice services for companies doing business outside the country and foreign companies operating in South Africa and this seems to be the basis of DTI thought on the matter.

Down the track

Legal advice is better followed but a draft Bill it would now appear is being concluded in parliamentary terms.

unictral 1Such arbitration methods have terms which are non-country-specific.  In terms of adoption, the standards of ethical conduct devised by the UN trade body, the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCTRAL) and its manifesto, according to the background of the draft Bill, have been included.

BITs on way out

International arbitration can then be operated,it is proposed, between companies or individuals in different states usually by including a provision for future disputes in a contract with UNCTRAL. This is the next stage of the DTI’s moves to finalize the policy of discontinuation of bi-lateral trade agreements (BITs) with individual countries. The whole issue is based upon disputes that may arise and the new Bill now before Parliament follows the new route, which may mollify those parties complaining of BITs discontinuation.

More importantly DTI states, it lines South Africa up with the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, which has been adopted by UNCTRAL.   This model law is not binding but individual states may adopt such legislation by incorporating it into their own domestic law, which is now proposed.

It is understood that the current legislation could bind South Africa as a UN member of UNCTRAL but the rules to be adopted are a separate issue at the moment and will govern individual companies in any dispute that may arise under the new circumstances.

Again, specialist advice should be sought on this whole subject.

Previous articles on category subject

Protection of Investment Bill finally passed – ParlyReportSA

Changes to Protection of Investment Bill – ParlyReportSA

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA

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BEE: Davies drives on with Black Industrialist Policy

Report on Black Industrialist Policy awaited….. 

sent to clients 21 January….  The Black Industrialist Policy, now in place and engineered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is due to be debated in Parliament early February.

ack bdlive

ack bdlive

A progress report will be made by Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies to the relevant portfolio committee shortly. The plan was submitted to Cabinet by and approved in early November 2015. The purpose of the policy, the Cabinet said at the time, was to focus on growth and competitiveness of Black-owned enterprises.

The plan is designed to “facilitate the meaningful participation of Black-owned and managed companies within industry” and is another extension to DTI’s Industrial Action Plan (IPAP).  It backs up, Minister Davies said when launching the programme, both the NDP and President Zuma’s nine-point plan laid out in the 2015 State of Nation Address.

More Black control releases more State money

The scheme offers a cost sharing grant with the DTI, ranging from 30% to 50%, to approved entities to a maximum of R50m.   The value of the grant in terms of any proposal will depend on the level of Black ownership and management control and must be for capital investment and other support measures, such as working capital.

Minister Davies said in his launch parliamentary media briefing  that a number of private banks black ownershiphad  approached DTI prepared to partner with government on the initiative. He said the idea was “to unlock the industrial potential that exists within Black-owned and managed businesses through deliberate, targeted and well-defined financial and non-financial interventions.”

Focus on Black ownership

Not mentioning job creation specifically, he said that his department particularly wanted to “speed up the entry of Black industrialists to enter strategic and targeted industrial sectors and value chains.” “South Africa will not be able to industrialise to maximise growth “unless it simultaneously includes the Black industrialist on a sustainable basis”, he said.

Manufacturing core needed

Minister Davies said that the only route for future of the economy was to build the manufacturing sector and the inclusion of the black industrialists and manufacturers had to be encouraged.

The DTI had earmarked R1bn of seed capital to assist the Black industrialists to raise the necessary equity required to access the private sector/banking market to access debt funding, he said.  This capital would be complemented by funding from developmental finance institutions.

He added that while incentivising the inclusion of the Black industrialists in the manufacturing sector, the parties involved “needed to be committed, willing to take risks and be willing to look for long-term returns and not short-term rents.”

” This policy proposes focused efforts to facilitate inclusion and participation of Black industrialists in manufacturing activities, with an understanding that more equal societies tend to grow faster than those that are unequal,” said the Minister.

Opposition members will specifically ask how this programme has contributed to job creation.

Previous articles on category subject
SA’s economic woes not BEE, says DTI – ParlyReportSA
25.1% is maximum BEE control, says DTI – ParlyReportSA
DTI does flip flop on BEE codes – ParlyReportSA

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BEE : Black Industrialist Policy ready to go

DTI with further Black industrialist plan…..

The Black Industrialist Policy is now in place engineered by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI andBEE image approved by Parliament. It was submitted to Cabinet by Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies and approved in early November. The purpose of the policy, the Cabinet says, is to focus on growth and competitiveness of Black-owned enterprises.

The plan is designed to “facilitate the meaningful participation of Black-owned and managed companies within industry” and is another extension to DTI’s Industrial Action Plan (IPAP). It extends, Minister Davies says, the NDP and President Zuma’s nine-point plan laid out in the 2015 State of Nation Address.

More Black control, more money

The scheme offers a cost sharing grant with the DTI, ranging from 30% to 50% to approved entities to a maximum of R50m. The value of the grant in terms of any proposal will depend on the level of Black ownership and management control and must be for capital investment and other support measures such as working capital.

Minister Davies said in his media briefing relayed on the parliamentary precinct that a number of private banks have already approached DTI prepared to partner with government on such an initiative. He said the idea was “to unlock the industrial potential that exists within Black-owned and managed businesses through deliberate, targeted and well-defined financial and non-financial interventions.”

DTI, he said, particularly wanted to “speed up the entry of Black industrialists to enter strategic and targeted industrial sectors and value chains.” According to Minister Davies, South Africa will not be able to industrialise to maximise growth “unless it simultaneously includes the Black industrialist on a sustainable basis.”

It all comes back to manufacturing

Rob-DaviesDavies said that the only route for future of the economy was to build the manufacturing sector and the inclusion of the black industrialists had to be encouraged. The DTI has earmarked R1bn of seed capital to assist the Black industrialists to raise the necessary equity required to access the private sector/banking market to access debt funding. This capital would be complemented by funding from developmental finance institutions.

He added that while incentivising the inclusion of the Black industrialists in the manufacturing sector, the parties involved “needed to be committed, willing to take risks and be willing to look for long-term returns and not short-term rents.”

” This policy proposes focused efforts to facilitate inclusion and participation of Black industrialists in manufacturing activities, with an understanding that more equal societies tend to grow faster than those that are unequal,” said the Minister.

Previous articles on category subject
SA’s economic woes not BEE, says DTI – ParlyReportSA
25.1% is maximum BEE control, says DTI – ParlyReportSA
DTI does flip flop on BEE codes – ParlyReportSA

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Plenty in the way of AGOA agreement

Sorting out AGOA agreement by Jan….

Sent to clients 17 Dec…. During a briefing to Parliament, it became evident once again that the SA Cabinet perceives the renewal of the AGOA agreement in the overall context of trade being attached in the future to a development price. The briefing was by DDG Kgabo Mahoai of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
Kgabo Mahoai

Whilst the advantages of a signed AGOA agreement to South Africa were great without doubt, Mahoai said, it had to be considered within the overall context of trade between Africa and the rest of the world. He was at pains to express that this was not just South Africa’s view.

AU plans for Africa

The overall African Union theme being developed by African states was clearly confirmed by DIRCO in that as a generalised policy, investment by international companies to gain access to poorer African zones had to be accompanied by reportable programmes of contributions to skills development, education, and small business and towards the upliftment of the African continent in general.   A price, he said, had to be attached for access to the African market.

Hence the Black Industrialists Investment Programme, devised by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), they said, and whilst US President Barack Obama had given South Africa 60 days until January 4 to show it is meeting the requirements of AGOA before the US imposes normal tariffs on South African agricultural products, the two matters of development and trade were inter-dependent, whatever US senators might feel.

In the background

However, the whole issue is complicated by a third issue, say critics of DTI’s slowness in finalising AGOA, by the passage of the Private Security Industry Bill, held back by President Zuma and appearing to be compounded by national intelligence issues according to MPs. DIRCO said they could not discuss this but it was evident from questioning by MPs that this was “the elephant in the room” when it came to general US-SA trade relationships.

chickenWhilst the debate on AGOA has been complicated by US senators over anti dumping duties that South Africa had imposed on US chicken wings and drumsticks in 2000 – the argument then extending to meat and pork products – the stakes are high since the agricultural section of AGOA (which could be this isolated from AGOA and lose its duty-free status) involves some additional R140m of exports in wine, citrus and nuts, in addition to meat and poultry.

Kick back…

Senior SA MPs across party lines have observed that the position for DTI has also recently radically altered in that drought has seen the necessity to import cheap chicken as a substitute in the absence of red meat to poorer and lower income groups. This has adversely affected the SA position in negotiations.

No doubt, this is the dilemma facing DTI, Minister Rob Davies, having recently stated that “everything had been done which was possible to meet US requirements on certifications issues but did not wish to intervene in matters relating to ongoing veterinarian discussions between the two countries.”

In other words, previous arguments that the “US was bullying smaller countries into trade agreements advantageous to the US” might now have been negated by an additional need for chicken on the local market. Whilst meat is preferred in the average African household, chicken is a relatively cheaper substitute and acceptable, especially chicken wings and drum sticks, the drought in SA having changed the “quid pro quo”.

DTI at the front

DIRCO in their briefing said that they did not wish to make statements to MPs on “DTI territorial areas” but they were assisting where possible to ensure that the AGOA agreement was satisfactorily concluded in all aspects. Also the US, DIRCO was sure, were meeting all “developmental requirements” on general US-SA relationships, both here in the commercial world and on an inter-governmental basis.

DDG Kgabo Mahoai felt confident, he concluded, that AGOA was to be renewed in all aspects despite further late “anti-SA lobbying by some US senators attempting to resuscitate pressure on President Obama.”

Inside job

At this point, the meeting was disrupted by unruly NEHAWU protesters who blew vuvuzelas and sangnehawu freedom songs, disallowing any further debate. Chairperson, Eddie Makue (ANC), wisely concluded the meeting, objecting to protester’s that the disruption was illegal in terms of national law to interrupt parliamentary business. A good number of the NEHAWU demonstrators were in fact parliamentary staff and had full knowledge where meetings were taking place in the parliamentary precinct.

This was a sad conclusion to an intelligent meeting.

Other articles in this category or as background
EU and AGOA still important to SA, says govt – ParlyReportSA
AGOA : Parliament this week 3 Nov 2015 – ParlyReportSA

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Protection of Investment Bill finally passed

Protection of Investment Bill goes for signature….

Sent to clients 20 Nov…… Trade and Industry Minister, Dr. Rob Davies, pushing through Parliament the proposed Protection of Investment Bill for signature by President Zuma, has discounted advice from rob davies 6the majority of submissions from business and industry and disagreed with all opposition members,

A majority of ANC Alliance members had out voted all opposition parties including the EFF in the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, with concurrence from the NCOP’s Select Committee on Trade and International relations.

The vote in the National Assembly following this was merely a formality with opposition parties voting against. Minister Davies held a media briefing beforehand claiming the removal of recourse for foreign investors to international arbitration was no big deal and in his opinion “the level of investment protection had very little, if any, impact on investment decisions.”

A sum up of the Bill

Shadow Minister  of  Trade and Industry, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said earlier in Parliament that the opposite was indeed the fact and “the new Bill, if it became law, would provide investors with no more protection than already provided in South African law.”

moneyIt had become apparent from earlier meetings that it was Minister Davies’ view that he disliked “litigious-minded investors taking advantage of obscure factors of international trade laws to reverse protection sought by his department” when Department and Trade and Industry (DTI) sought to protect local industry from unfair practices in disputes. He said DTI was not prepared to run and control over 180 bi-lateral trade agreements (BITs), which would now be terminated when they expire.

DTI, the Minister said, required “one harmonised law for investment” which, whilst taking South Africa into new investment territory at law at the same time, “joined South Africa with other leaders with a revised view towards foreign investment and trade.”

The “e” word

eThe primary area of concern during the debates conducted in Parliament recently surrounded an expressed fear of expropriation, a word not used lightly in the context of Africa as a whole. As pointed out by both Minister of Trade, Rob Davies, in terms of the Protection of Investment Bill now passed by Parliament, and Deputy Minister Cronin of Public Works, in terms of the Expropriation Bill being finalised by the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, South Africa’s Constitution guarantees against unfair and unjust expropriation. This, they maintain, is the protection that South African law gives at the highest possible level.

A debate recently occurred in the Portfolio Public Works Committee that the SA Constitution did not define exactly what was meant by the terms “property” or “the public interest” but it eventually transpired that at committee level that Constitutional issues could not be debated in a parliamentary forum. The issue has therefore been “ducked”, as it has, it appears, at Constitutional Court level.

None of our business

The fact that both Committees will not allow debate on the business of other committees in their debating time also precludes any debate on the Private Security Industry Bill, retained by President Zuma as unsigned and which demands 51% of foreign security company investments and was subject and voted on by the Portfolio Committee on Police.

Objectives

The original Cabinet statement issued when the Protection of Investment Bill, then with the deleted word “Promotion” still included when first tabled, stated that the Bill would:

• Provide adequate and equal protection for foreign and local investors alike.scan0004
• Place a stable business environment in place as part of efforts to attract investment.
• Provide adequate and equal protection for foreign and local investors alike.
• All investments will be protected irrespective of their origin.
Courtesy of Business Day
By default, therefore, all interests should be protected by SA law.

One concession

The original requirement that “government may consent to international arbitration with respect to investments after domestic remedies have been exhausted” was watered down, after debate, to allowing an independent tribunal to make further recommendations to the Minister before he or she exercised their rights in ultimate decision making which still remains the Minister’s prerogative.

With the passage of the Bill now for signature, all parliamentary procedure is now complete and a date for the Act to be promulgated announced – by which time DTI would have gazetted any regulations.
Other articles in this category or as background
Changes to Protection of Investment Bill – ParlyReportSA
Sept workshop: Protection of Investment Bill – ParlyReportSA
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA

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Draft Copyright Amendment Bill raises queries

Copyright Bill proposes revenues to state…

copyright graphicsent to clients 28 Oct….  Anomalies abound in the draft Copyright Amendment Bill, recently published for comment and now awaiting tabling in Parliament hopefully with a number of changes, say experts in the intellectual property industry.

The Bill primarily affects music, artistic and literary copyrights but the whole issue of patents, copyright and intellectual property rights are so intertwined that any changes will undoubtedly send up red flags up in various areas.

Government says in this instance it is trying to modernise the existing Copyright Act but as with any changes to established procedures that have existed for years, there are pros and cons that come with change it seems.

50 years after death

The draft Bill deals primarily with copyright of artistic, musical and literary work and most assume earphonesthat works of great composers such Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert are free of copyright, those geniuses having long since passed away. In fact under the existing Act, the author, composer or artist has copyright for life and then fifty years

The draft states both clearly and unambiguously that the ownership of all copyright held by individuals will automatically transfer to the state upon their death.

Until death do us part….

There is not the slightest indication of what body or entity is involved, other than the fact that the Bill is to be tabled by the Minister of Trade and Industry, meaning that DTI, or an entity controlled by it, would receive such, presumably the individual’s Estate being responsible for notifying DTI that they are heirs. The draft also states that government may never re-sell or pass on such copyrights.

The question to any casual observer is what happens to this money, at present collect by such bodies in doubtful manner by such bodies as SAMRO and passed to DTI? It is revenue and does it go to National Treasury, perhaps a fund for aged musicians, authors and artists even child education in the arts? On this the Bill is silent, no policy having been ever stated by any cabinet minister on such matters.

Another tribunal

In the absence of any new guides as promised on intellectual property in general, such having been promised by DTI in the form of a National IP Policy many months ago, more concerning is the establishment of an Intellectual Property Tribunal which is a case of “overkill” in dealing with this limited area of copyright and royalties.

Such a body may adjudicate on “on any application and on any legislation brought before it”, the draft supermarketstates.

On the whole, we have to assume that the majority of the draft Bill applies to individuals only, with the exception of the recording industry and literary reproduction industry, there also being certain clauses regarding End User Licence Agreements affecting software sales.

Criminalisation

Of concern though to many is the growing tendency to introduce criminalisation into legislation such as areas of BEE with fines normally reserved for more serious and harmful criminal police offences. In this case DTI have once again mentioned maximum jail and penalties of totally disproportionate periods and amounts.

To many, this Bill appears to have a lot more written in between the lines and prompts again many questions as to the direction DTI is taking with regard to international agreements, in this case the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

It will be interesting to see what is finally tabled in Parliament for debate and what emerges from parliamentary public hearings

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Changes to Protection of Investment Bill

sent to clients 13 Oct…. updates yet to be posted ….

Unpopular Bill on its way to final vote….

After some marathon debates in the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Parliament put aside the newly named Protection of Investment Bill (previously the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill) until after the recent winter recess for members to consider two important substitution clauses suggested by an Opposition member.

Whether the final Bill will meet international expectations still remains a query despite being finally hammered through. (report and details still with clients)

lionel octoberThe Trade and Industry Department (DTI) was represented throughout the two days of clause by clause debate by director-general, Lionel October; Mustaqeem De Gama: DTI Legal Director: International Trade and Investment (ITED) and Counsellor to the WTO; with Ms. Phumelele Ngema: Parliamentary Legal Advisor. This followed earlier hearings which included many submissions from business, industry and institutions such as the Institute of Race Relations.

Taking it seriously

Bearing in mind that a full back-up team from DTI was also present for the first clause-by-clause debate, including Ms. Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter: DTI Acting Deputy Director General: ITED who promoted the Bill from DTI, it could said that DTI fielded their full team on the issue with a full bench of reserves and consequently had taken all submissions during the Bill’s hearings a week before in a serious light.

Main objections to the Bill had come in the areas in the definition of investment; fair and equitable treatment of both local and international investors on equal terms; the definitions of “property” in the case of expropriation and disputes, particularly the issue of arbitration and the locale and parties involved in such determinations.

Lack of clarity

Specifically complaints were received that Bill as tabled was unclear on the obligations of investors;

ack bdlive

ack bdlive

there appeared to be differences in standards of fair and equitable treatment for international investors; many disliked the omission of a favoured nation clauses; lack of reference in the Bill to exactly what was meant by expropriation; and the fact that DTI in the form of the Minister had express rights to regulate in the public interest and in dispute resolution remedies.

The fact that the Minister “may” allow cases to be referred to international arbitration was, by some, expressed as an objectionable approach to international business relations.

No movement on national bias

In the first meeting  to provide responses to submissions received, Lionel October assuring members that DTI had no intention to act in a manner that reduced investment flows into South Africa.    He said government had a duty to regulate in the public interest and needed the political space to do so. He insisted that any dispute resolution is to be limited at first to domestic remedies with the option, now, of state-to-state arbitration once domestic remedies had been exhausted.

Further, he said, DTI was amenable to deleting the part of the definition of ‘dispute’ that read “provided that a dispute will only arise once the parties agree, or as prescribed by law”. He explained that the proposal that the definition of “measure” could be changed to a definition reading “measure refers to binding governmental action directly affecting an investor or its investment, and includes laws, regulations, and administrative actions…etc.”

Cosmetic change to title

de GamaMustaqeem De Gama, in agreeing to the point that the title of the Bill should be changed to “The Protection of Investment Bill” in the light of the argument that there was little in the way of Promotion, said that he wished to assure all that the phrase regarding “use of available resources” in the clauses on security of investment as only referring to physical security and policing.

It was agreed that the state must provide this type of security on an investment. Wording would apply as such. It was also agreed that the word “dispute” would not be defined as such in the Bill allowing a court to fall back to the normal dictionary definition of the term.

Rights to establish investment

On the right of international enterprises to invest and the restrictive clauses in this respect referred to under Clause 6 as the “ Right of Establishment’”, De Gama said the clause does not seek to deal with or create a right of establishment up front but only sought to require that an investment be established in accordance with domestic laws. He claimed that any state had an inherent right to regulate who does and does not “establish” in their territory.

Opposition members said that wording as such was another investment barrier and Dean Mcpherson (DA) pointed to the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill where it is proposed that no foreign person may own agricultural land.  He felt that South Africa should not be limiting investment but rather welcoming all investment of whatever kind in order to grow the economy. He was wary of specifying who can and cannot invest in South Africa, particularly in the light of other Bills now being processed by Parliament.

State to hold rights on access

DTI responded with the view that “no investors have ever been so bold as to attempt to exempt themselves from following domestic law”. De Gama continued that international law gives any state the right to regulate the access of foreigners to their land. “If the investment negatively impacts the economy, the state should have a right to take action to mitigate these negative effects through various policy spaces”, de Gama concluded.

If expropriation is ever necessary in an extreme case, the Constitution requires just compensation be paid and that was clearly stated in the Constitution, DTI pointed out. Opposition members complained that the exact definition of expropriation per se “in terms of the laws of the country” was still being debated in another Bill, the Expropriation Bill, currently before the Portfolio Committee on Public Works.

Double talk

The chairperson, Joanna Fubbs, refused to allow debate on the subject to continue on the basis that joan fubbs“this definition was the responsibility of another department”. DA member, Geordan Hill Davies, complained that Committee was “just side stepping the issue insofar as The Protection of Investment Bill was concerned” and the apparent avoidance in “debating this issue in this forum just added to the uncertainty of South Africa’s intentions”.

Fair and equitable treatment

Also under the microscope was the issue raised during a submission from American Chamber of Commerce in SA and others during hearings that any form of iron clad promise of fair and equitable treatment of investments by foreign companies was not evident in the Bill. In this regard, Lionel October argued that this could not possibly be the case as South Africa needed investment and the Bill was designed to protect such.

However, the phrase “subject to national legislation” could not be deleted as a matter of state policy and the expression at the outset of the Bill of “in like circumstances” also had to stay in view that “national treatment” was necessary to avoid ambiguity, as previously stated.

Like circumstances issue

Lionel October argued that the SA government would be applying “national treatment” in line with WTO practice. The DTI had never discriminated based on place of origin, he said. The only reason for the ‘like circumstances’ clause in the Bill before them was because, for example, “minor abuses of black empowerment policies”, such policies and others being specific to South Africa, he said.

He said a dispensation had been granted on the issue that international arbitration was only to be allowed at the Minister’s discretion after all domestic legal avenues had been exhausted and to allow state-to-state arbitration to take place. Opposition members argued that in some cases in the world of modern investment this was both an impractical and unenforceable suggestion.

No “certainty”

geordin hill-lewisGeordin Hill-Lewis said this whole section was the crux of the Bill’s weakness in encouraging investment. He felt that the essence was that foreign investors wanted be treated in like manner to domestic investors and the wording of the Bill still implied, or gave the impression, that SA would treat foreign investors less favourably.  In addition, SA could legislate in the future to the further disadvantage of foreign investors. “There was no certainty in the wording at present”, he said.

New clauses

Geordin Hill-Lewis produced two amending clauses, one on “Standards of Treatment” (to be inserted after Clause 7 to become Clause 8) and a further on “Legal Protection of Investments” (to replace Clause 9 which would become Clause 10 because of the above addition). These had been prepared overnight by the DA’s legal advisors.

DTI and all members were asked to study these two clauses during the two week recess when the Bill would be finally concluded. The Chairperson noted that this issue was not closed. DTI confirmed that they would study the recommended changes. In addition, seven issues within the Bill were carried over for further discussion before the Bill could be recommended to go forward until after the recess.

The hearings conducted before the debate included submissions from Anglo-American, SA Institute of Race Relations, Banking Association of SA, The Mandela Institute of Wits University, NUMSA, the EU-SA Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in SA. All expressed disquiet to varying degrees on the Bill as originally proposed.

(further articles to be posted in due course leading to final committee vote)

Other articles in this category or as background

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled

Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA

Expropriation Bill phrases could be re-drafted – ParlyReportSA

Land Holdings Bill joins state acquisition trend – ParlyReportSA

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AGOA : Parliament this week 3 Nov 2015

cropped-sa-parliament-2.jpg

 

Editorial…….

AGOA : What and who to believe….

Reported to clients 5 November……On June 10 2015, a meeting took place in Parliament between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, chaired by Ms. Joanna Fubbs, during which DTI was reporting back on its progress with B-BBEE.

The meeting was interrupted by the appearance of Faizel Ismail, the special SA Trade Ambassador to thefaisel ismail AGOA talks, who dramatically made an announcement with the Chair’s agreement despite nothing on the agenda, to all members of the Committee. To sum up the statement he said that the negotiations on the AGOA trade agreement could be considered a success. There was considerable joy amongst MPs generally.

Then on September 8, Lionel October, Director General of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), surely “Mr. Big” when it comes to knowledge of trade relationships and policy with other countries, made the following rather obtuse statement to the PC on Trade and Industry when asked for the current position with regard to the AGOA.

He answered, “As for SA’s US relationship, no one relationship would save SA. The US has decided to re-industrialise with an emphasis on energy development in Africa after a previous emphasis on the service industry. The AGOA had been reviewed, and meat trade issues needed to be resolved but in general the AGOA had grown in its relationships.”

What this was supposed to mean was difficult to interpret. But then discussions were on-going at the time between SA representatives and the US congress over poultry, meat and pork issues and relationships were admittedly difficult. Dumping by the US was the accusation. Lack of certification of SA exports was the reply. Most were downcast.

The context

The occasion for DG October’s remark was DTI’s presentation of its annual report to Parliament, with Minister Rob Davies present, and it was in answer to an Opposition member on the subject. It was apparent to all at the time that the AGOA had not been mentioned as one of the “achievements” of DTI for the year 2014/5 and the first quarter of the present year. That’s as close as Parliament can get to being up-to-date.

Then newspapers announced that South Africa’s inclusion had been agreed to by Congress and the AGOA Bill had been sent to President Obama for signature. The poultry and meat issue had been resolved apparently.

lionel october 3Everybody relaxed and Lionel October told Parliament in a further PC Trade and Industry meeting, this time on the Protection of Investment Bill, that indeed the Bill had indeed gone for signature and all was done and dusted.

Reverse gear

The we heard from the media, not DTI, that everything is held up again after DTI had admitted under pressure that they had failed to meet a poultry declaration deadline under the AGOA. A war of words started on whose fault that was, DTI claiming that the fault was mutual between the US and South Africa.

In the meanwhile we had put the AGOA behind us, the focus having shifted in the meanwhile to watching the Portfolio Committees of Police and awaiting the return of Private Security Industry Bill, President Zuma staying “mum” on the subject and the Cabinet saying nothing in their regular statements from GCIS.

Clearly the preamble to the AGOA agreement had fallen foul with the US Constitution finding this particular Bill objectionable in terms of international obligations on expropriation, presumably connecting AGOA to US investments in the security sector industry where US owned interests stood to lose control of their investments in South Africa. This time it was the US media reporting, not the negotiating parties.

Just recently, Ms. Joanna Fubbs, chairperson of the Trade and Industry Committee, refused Oppositionjoan fubbs members the right to discuss the issue of the Private Security Industry Bill in her Committee, stating that the subject matter was the domain of another Committee. The subject at the time was the Protection of Investment Bill, now passed at committee level, and whether this Bill would contribute further to poor US relationships, as was apparent with the Security Industry Bill already.

 Passing the cushion

But that was not the full truth. The PC Committee on Police, as far as we can establish, has never discussed in depth the implications of the Private Security Industry Bill as far as the AGOA is concerned. Meanwhile President Zuma, who had the Bill and still has, must be perfectly aware of the implications as must the whole Cabinet, since it is not just the poultry industry that is affected but the security industry, the automotive industry and a whole lot more.

This is especially in the light of the fact that, according to reports, this Bill has been mentioned in Congress in front of the SA Ambassador called to Congress to answer on the subject. Nobody knows therefore, if Parliament will again verbalise on the Bill because nobody will come clean on why the Private Security Industry Bill is stuck where it is in the Presidential office.

 AGOA vs Security Bill

Is AGOA on the altar of ideology, one must ask therefore.

courtesy iol

courtesy iol

During a very recent briefing to the PC on Trade and Industry on AGOA progress, Minister Davies told parliamentarians that everything “was in the hands of veterinarians, both on the US side and in South Africa, both parties taking the issues of animal disease and sickness very seriously“. He continued, “It has been more than we dare do in DTI to interfere or intervene in this process. It is supposed to be an independent process. Avian ‘flu in the US is a repeating disease but, however, all is now resolved from an SA perspective.”

The Minister added, “Furthermore on our side we, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and their veterinarians have written to the US side to say we are ready to implement all conditions so President Obama can sign. All the deals are done in both the US and SA industries and we just await the US response”, he concluded with Faizel Ismail present.

Dave MacPherson (DA) pointed to the fact that the whole of AGOA would be torpedoed anyway if the Private Security Industry Bill were to go through. Minister Davies responded that the Private Security had not come up once in the AGOA talks with the US. “Too much of this has been a media debate”, he said.

Under pressure

Consequently Minister Davies is fully aware the situation but dealing with the issues as if they were not connected, which could be considered slightly disingenuous. It is known that Minister Davies very much wants the AGOA deal signed but Oppositions members conclude, when asked, that they also cannot think of a single reason for pushing through the Private Security Industry Bill if it is at the expense of the AGOA and growth.

Unless it can be put down to disharmony within the Cabinet or intransigence on the part of the Minister of Police, they say.

As for the future of the AGOA then, for the moment don’t hold your breath but rather cross your fingers that Cabinet as a whole will come out of its ideological bubble, if this is the case.

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Sept workshop: Protection of Investment Bill

Report to clients 15 Sept. Two more posts to follow…

Initial discussions on Investment Bill…

In a parliamentary Trade and Industry Committee workshop, two professors of law at South AfricanCOMMITTEES_large universities stated that the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill (as it was then called) seemed to be little about promotion of investment but more about local protection.

Nevertheless, both felt that localised jurisdiction was the more appropriate way to settle issues under arbitration conditions in the South African context; was in line with SADC modelling and introduced the elements of national interest and “fairness”, which they said international arbitration often precluded.

Both added that some of the vague wording and definitions had to be tightened up upon if the Bill was to be a useful tool in encouraging developmental investment and that, in purely legal terms, their view was that the Bill would pass constitutional muster.

Legal minds

joan fubbsMs. Joanna Fubbs, chairperson of the committee, had invited a number of legal and trade entities to share opinion on the new Bill under relaxed workshop discussion rules and on the invite list was Prof. Riekie Wandrag of University of Western Cape and Prof. Jonathan Klaaren of Wits University.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also made a presentation by Ms. Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter, who was to be leading DTI’s briefing of Parliament on the PPI Bill in the coming days.

 International views

An international guest to report on the PPI Bill was a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) representative, James Zhan, who noted that the proposals contained in the Bill seemed to be following the new trend, particularly in developing countries.

It was now becoming standard practice, he said, not to have traditional bilateral trade treaties (BITs) butzahn rather an agreement that favoured economic development in the host country and subject to the laws of that country.

Unctad led most of the discussions during the debate and stated that any such legislation as proposed by the PPI Bill could “fill an important gap in the developmental role of a country and help with economic development.”

The trend in many countries such as South Africa, Mr Zhan said, was to move away from BITs which tended to be a legacy from the past. However, he added that this was not the whole story. What was put in its place, such a Bill as proposed, had to be part of a whole regulatory framework that encouraged development strategies as well as investment. One could not be without the other.

 Part of a state policy perhaps

D Macpherson DAWhen asked by DA member, Dean Macpherson, if he was aware that the PPI Bill was part of a whole number of Bills that were part of the South African government’s present land and state expropriation policy, such as the Expropriation Bill and a draft Land Holdings Bill, Mr Zahn said he was not asked to talk on these further Bills or discuss any state policy nor was he asked to study the wording of the Bill before them in detail.

His brief, he said, was merely to comment on the Bill as this was a workshop and on the basis of what was happening elsewhere in the world and the role of Unctad. Each government had its own policies and laws and it was not Unctad’s role to get involved in specific national issues.

On issues of arbitration on BITs resulting from disagreements with host countries, he said globally there were over 3,500 treaties of some sort in operation in 160 countries on trade at any one time and, on average, a new treaty is signed every week including mega regional BITs.   He said “few countries were satisfied with the current international trade regime” and it was fast changing.

 Where the argument comes

He said most arbitration matters or points of disagreement arose over waste collection, treatment and disposal (3%); transportation and storage (3%); the manufacture of food products (4%); real estate (4%); telecommunications (6%); construction (8%); financial services and insurance issues (9%); mining and gas (16%); supply of electricity (19%); and other varied issues (28%).

65% of arbitration cases were decided in favour of the businesses involved and 35% in favour of the state involved.    Zahn said that “the world was going through a period of reflection on trade agreements” and whilst companies in the major trading nations in some cases might prefer BITs, most of them were coming to terms with the fact that many smaller nations, especially those with poor communities, were asking for national priorities to be included in packages.

History of up and down

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), South Africa was amongst the world’s top recipients but South Africa’s graph of incoming funds since 1994 was “lumpy” he said, “sometimes up and sometimes down due to the fact that most projects in South Africa were very large infrastructure projects and only occurred now and then”.

FDI graphAs far as FDI was concerned, the UK was by far the largest supplier of FDI in South Africa (48%), with the Netherlands coming in at 16%; the US at 6%; Germany at 5%; and China at 4%.  Financial destinations provide 40% of FDI applications in SA; mining, quarrying and petroleum at 28%; and manufacturing at 17%.   Transport, storage and communications was at 10% and gas, water and electricity, at this stage, almost 0%.  The reason for the odd groupings was not given.

Zahn said Unctad saw this Bill as a natural bridge to the country’s own developmental strategies and it was in general was in line with Unctad’s core principles. When asked by Opposition MPs if the wording regarding “the public interest” and vagaries of allowing the Minister to decide if an investor may use international arbitration methods on disagreements worried him at all, Chairperson Joanna Fubbs stepped in and said that the meeting was a workshop, not a clause by clause debate on the Bill.

 Findings often obscure

However, Zahn did say that he could only opinionate in broad terms and state what the rest of the world was doing in general terms. The point was that arbitration under BITs was a different issue to the state to state relationships envisaged by the Bill before the workshop but he noted that many international arbitration findings in favour of the investing company were on obscure technical points and had little to do with the investment itself and the country in which the investment was made.

He understood, however, that whilst the Bill might not be coming at a good time from the point of global economic factors, “it was a good Bill generally in broad principle and it was a good time to set up new structures”.

Gives policy space

 Jonathan klaarenProf. Jonathan Klaaren of Wits University said in broad terms BITs probably do not affect a leaning towards good developmental investment but do not hurt inward flows of capital. Thus he felt that DTI, by giving protection for inward and outward SA investments and retaining “policy space for a legal and policy framework attuned to sustainable development”, allowed South Africa to do some of “the agenda setting”.

He agreed with the recent Policy Review on trade treaties which stated that BITs tended to open the door to narrow commercial interests and that matters of national interest became subject to unpredictable international arbitration outcomes if they went wrong. “This may lead to a result that may constitute a direct challenge to legitimate, constitutional and democratic policy making”, he said.

In his view, procedural “fairness” contained in a domestic jurisdiction approach was superior to the arguments often given in favour of “fairness” at international level. He said the “fairness” was guaranteed with a robust judicial system such as existed in South Africa whereas in the international environment of arbitration, quite often “fairness” was not reached because of obscure legal issues. The national interest of a country was therefore made irrelevant because of a technical point at law.

He noted that issues of economic development could not be addressed outside of borders but human rights issues such as land grabs in Zimbabwe were coming into the matter and involved the SA Law Society at the moment who were deciding upon such issues. At the moment the SADC Arbitration Tribunal was only state to state, so matters raised in this workshop fell away.

The future with SADC

reikie wandragProf. Rieikie Wandrag of the Faculty of Law, UCW, gave a detailed comparison with existing SADC investment protocols and hoped-for changes being negotiated. She also drew comparisons with the East Africa COMESA trading bloc.

She said the Bill was generally in line with the regional perspective in SADC and Africa generally and that the PPI Bill attempted to address most of the concerns currently being expressed in many developmental regions. Prof. Wandrag undertook a comparison of expropriation wording; the use of the expression “in like circumstances” in each region, which was usually the contentious area in any such Bill; and how each region dealt with the area of “fair and just compensation”.

DTI’s view

DTI’s Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter complained that arbitration panels produced inconsistent interpretations even on similar matters and undermined in their view the predictability of investment law.   She said that with international arbitration, DTI had noted that matters were shrouded in secrecy; rulings were not published because of confidential rules and which affected governments; whilst matters were not generally conducted on a “proper state-to-state basis”.

 Social imperatives to be included

She said the trend was now to have state-to-state international investment agreements, where implications for countries was involved and arbitration issues could not avoid local courts or the laws of the country where the investment took place. Broader social and public imperatives would have to be considered when considering investment because, DTII said, it had to be understood that South Africa was engaged in a process of socio-economic transformation.

The agenda in South Africa was set by the NDP, New Growth Plan and IPAPs in addition to the local laws of the land, Mlumbi-Peter said, and the implementation of this “ambitious development agenda required the development of new policies and regulations whilst ensuring that South Africa remained open to foreign investment and trade”.

The workshop concluded with the chairperson pointing out that the idea had been to “set the scene” for parliamentarians on the forthcoming hearings and the reasons for introducing such a Bill.
Other articles in this category or as background
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA
Protection of Personal Information Bill almost concluded

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SA’s economic woes not BEE, says DTI

BEE and economic climate not connected…..

lionel october 3In his introduction to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) presentation to Parliament on the current position with regard to the implementation of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) as of August, 2015,  DTI’s DG, Lionel October, said that contrary to some claims, BEE was nothing to do with the many economic problems that beset South Africa.
In his overview, before discussing the detail of the B-BBEE Act, the Codes and Sector Charters, October said he wanted place the need for urgent transformation in its proper context. He said that indeed South Africa, as an emerging economy, had been hurt by global factors recently by Chinese currency interventions and originally by its own energy supply problems.

Key to future, says DTI

However, he said, economic transformation in the form of black advancement, procurement from black entrepreneurs, the transfer of basic mineral wealth into beneficiated products and a rebuilt and transformed manufacturing sector held the key to development.   BEE was nothing to do with the pervading “doom and gloom” scenarios that were persisting in business and industry circles.

Lionel October said “things now needed to be speeded up”. He claimed that the country now had all the legislation, tools and direction needed to contribute the shortage of jobs and quoted JP Landman by saying that South Africa faced a further problem that population growth of 200,000 births a year more than the previous year every year was as much a problem currently, he said.

The big sell

In tracing the development of BEE since the commencement of the B-BBEE Amendment Act in 2014, the adoption of the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice in May this year, DTI had held 46 workshops to explain and help in the development and understanding of the need for black empowerment. It was not a racial issue, he insisted, but a programme of necessity if South Africa was to survive economically.

He said that the process of establishing at BEE Commission was at “an advanced stage” – the new acting commissioner having been announced recently.

B-BBEE ACT trumps all

Acting chief director of BEE at DTI, Liso Steto, then reported that the new “trumping” provision in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act will take effect in two months time when the 12-month transitional period expires. An example of “trumping”, he explained to MPs, was if, for example, a government department put out for tenders and ignored the provisions of the B-BBEE Act. In that case, the Act would “trump” any regarding the tenders.
This trumping therefore, he said, will take precedence over any other law and relates to all other instruments of black economic empowerment, such as Codes of Good Practice and Sectoral Charters. The provision would come into effect in October 2015, by regulation.

Codes get to nitty gritty

On Codes, Steto said, the major development had been the issue of relating “employment equity” to “management control”, with the latter now being the uniform name. Also “preferential procurement” and “enterprise development” were merged for evaluation into one element re-named “enterprise and supplier development”.

Minimum requirements had been introduced for “ownership”, “skills development” and “enterprise and supplier development”, as above.

Fighting “fronting”

Acting DG Steto re-confirmed that 25.1% remained as the target for black ownership. Emphasis was laid on the expression “true ownership” when explaining the 40% sub-minimum applicable on the net value of ownership in the hands of black people. Only investments regulated and based in South Africa will qualify as a “mandated investment”.

On Sector Codes, it was confirmed that ten sectors had been given extensions since 2013 but the final, final date was now October 2015 for all sectors. To date tourism, property, agriBEE, forestry, the media, advertising and communication were in line for approval. The process of aligning the mining charter with the liquid fuel charter had begun.

Split must come

Rumour has it “in the corridor” that these will eventually be split but the whole issue of the implementation of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development amendments have to be resolved before such an event can even be considered, resulting in this be an issue way into the future.
Questioning from MPs was limited, a concern being expressed by parliamentarians that the whole issue of verification agencies had to be speeded up by DTI and re-clarified. Lionel October said this was a priority.
MPs also complained that the threshold increase for BEE exempt micro enterprises, now being introduced, from R5m to R10m seemed a strange move if the idea was to develop more small manufacturing businesses but DTI responded that their view was different and the necessity to reduce red tape in the SMME world was essential.

Other articles in this category or as background
25.1% is maximum BEE control, says DTI – ParlyReportSA
DTI does flip flop on B-BBEE codes – ParlyReportSA
Equity quotas court ruling affects BEE legislation – ParlyReportSA
B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice far more onerous – ParlyReportSA
One year to implement B-BBEE Codes – ParlyReportSA
Liquid fuels industry short on BEE charter – ParlyReportSA

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Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill re-tabled

Revised Investment Bill gives some ground…..

Rob+DaviesA crucially re-amended version of the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill has been re-tabled in Parliament by DTI that gives ground to some degree on the question of rights of investors regarding international arbitration regarding disputes in terms of the new ground breaking  legislation.

During his budget vote speech, Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies, stated that the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill would finally be retabled in Parliament, meaning that it will definitely not be signed into law as it was and that it would be subject to changes.

That Bill has now been re- tabled and no doubt being studied by all.

Past bilaterals respectedPromotion and Protection of Investment Bill 

Promoted by Minister Davies specifically, the Bill as it was voted through but not signed by the President ignored existing bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between South Africa and other countries in the EU whilst extending protection to new investors from all other countries. The new Bill as amended clarifies that this does not apply retrospectively.

Minister Davies said at the time, which was worrying to many foreign companies, that there was a trend he felt amongst developing countries to ignore such treaties although they might have been agreed to by previous governments.

Impediment to investment

Africa-map-with-coinsUnder BITs at present, trading investors are allowed to have arbitration proceedings as laid down by World Bank rules.   International arbitration, for obvious reasons, is preferred by investors as it is impartial and not in the hands of the country invested in, as is promoted the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill making it localised.

Minister Davies is on record as saying that that “South Africa had significant foreign direct investment from the US, Japan, Malaysia, India and other countries, and we have no bilateral investment treaties with them”. He commented in Parliament, some time before this budget vote speech, that such bi-lateral agreements on the whole were “irrelevant”.

The Bill as it stood allowed for acquisition by the state in the ownership of foreign companies “in a just and equitable manner”.  Such nebulous wording was rejected by the international business community in South Africa. Minister Davies said at the time when the Bill was passing through the portfolio committee on trade and industry, that “protection for overseas investors will be in terms of South Africa’s Constitution”, which he said, “provided significant and robust protection for investors and for property, both domestic and foreign.”

A “Bit” better

legalWhat the re-written Bill contains is a clause granting an investor the right to be treated no less favourably than South African investors as long as their investments are ‘‘in like circumstances’’. This is qualified by the clause which states, “The Bill provides for the security of investors and their investments. It seeks to clarify that the Republic bears no greater obligation to foreign investors than to its own investors in respect of their investments.”

However, on the rights under BITs agreements for arbitration or mediation internationally on new investment, it would appear that DTI have relented to some degree. After describing the whole process of local mediation which has to be undertaken first, the re-drafted Bill still insisting on this, a clause has been inserted that “the government may consent to international arbitration in respect of investments covered by this Act, subject to the exhaustion of domestic remedies. Such arbitration will be conducted between the Republic and the home state of the applicable investor.”

The Bill is now being digested and presumably Parliament will announce new hearings and call for further submissions.

Other Bills coming

ack bdlive

ack bdlive

In his budget vote speech a few weeks ago, Minister Davies confirmed that a Copyright Amendment Bill would also come before Parliament in the current financial year, together with a National Gambling Amendment Bill (as distinct from the Remote Gambling Amendment Bill before Parliament at present).

He also referred to a Liquor Amendment Bill which is suspected of being somewhat draconian. The whereabouts of the Intellectual Property Rights policy paper is also long outstanding from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Other articles in this category or as background
Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill opens up major row – ParlyReportSA
Private Security Industry Bill comes closer – ParlyReportSA

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25.1% is maximum BEE control, says DTI

DTI upbeat on implementation of BEE codes…..

lionel october 3

In a report to Parliament on the amended BEE Codes of Practice and their implementation as from 1 May 2015, Lionel October, Director General of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and his B-BBEE staff team, emphasised that the generic scorecard was aligned to government’s key priorities. He also said the State had no ambitions to take their target on black control beyond 25.1% of ownership.

Supplier Development is new title

DG October said the main emphasis of the codes had now switched to greater emphasis on what was previously termed procurement – now referred to as “supplier development”. This approach was more in alignment with the National Development Plan (NDP) objectives, DG October said, simply because that was the main direction needed to empower the development of black enterprises and build the economy on a stable growth path.

“In fact the German auto industry working with the German Chamber of Commerce had established a fund

BMW-Werk Südafrika

in South Africa”, he said, “for financing, training and building expertise in black businesses to supply the auto industry”.

There was considerable discussion on this by members and DG October said that there had been a general recognition in business and industry of the word “must” had replaced “may” in terms of B-BBEE requirements; that level four had to be reached for incentives and in general now “certainty” had been restored to the business environment on BEE issues, he felt.

Five “Elements”

The generic scorecard now had five elements, he said, which all companies, except those micro-exempted, had to comply with for recognition. All employment equity and management control had now been merged into one of those elements, now termed “management control”.    Sector codes were now to be aligned by 1 Nov. 2015, as set out in Code 003.

He said that “in response to public submissions” the import exclusion principle would be maintained and that the definition of an “empowering supplier” in the context of code alignment was a compliant entity which could demonstrate that its production and/or value adding activities were taking place in this country.”

DTI said that that “deviations of sector codes in terms of targets must be over and above those of generic codes and companies that derive more than 50% of revenue from sectors where there is already a sector code must be measured in terms of that sector code.”

DTI has no doubtful intentions

George Washington, having cut down the cherry tree, with his fatherIn general, DG October said in response to questions from MPs about the amendments, it had been his impression that business seemed to accept there were no political mala fides on the part of DTI; just a wish to get on with the planned NDP growth path which required the co-operation of business and industry on black empowerment.

The funding of Sector Charter Councils was a “joint responsibility between government and the private sector and entities must report annually on their B-BBEE status to sector council who will in return reports to the BEE Commission”, DTI said.

New sectors in the sights

Sector codes were being considered for the tourism, which had reached the stage of gazetting for public comment; “alignment” was being reached in the construction, integrated transport, ICT, financial services and chartered accountancy sectors; the property and forestry sectors had reached gazetting stages and marketing, advertising and communication were with their appropriate ministries for approval.

DG October mentioned the fact that the manufacturing industry stood alone as there were so many different sectors but over a period, aspects would be dealt with such as the film industry and textile and clothing industry.

DTI concluded their input to the meeting by advising that a technical assistance guide to B-BBEE was in process and DTI were in the process of finalising the B-BBEE verification manual.

Recent faux pas

rob davies2Opposition members asked how it was that DTI went so wrong with the question of  downgrading the pointing system for employment schemes and why it was that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, had to retract that portion of the amendments which were not gazetted for public comment.

Chairperson Joan Fubbs intervened at this point, noting the Minister had taken the blame, had apologised for the mistake and could do no more than admit that DTI had been wrong.

DG October added that at a DTI workshop on the subject with “some stakeholders” this direction had been considered as a good option for broader rather than narrow empowerment but it had now been recognised by DTI that “they had gone down the wrong route as far as investor confidence was concerned”.

DTI had now reversed everything with the promise that this would not occur on the agenda again.

Better ideas could come

It had also been realised that such a move could also destroy imaginative plans for black management control such as that pitched by Standard Bank where 40% shareholding went to staff who could have representation on the board; 40% went to recognised BEE shareholders and 20% went into community organisations and trusts.

In answer to direct questioning by MPs, DG October confirmed that by the term “black”, DTI translatedlionel october this as African, Coloured, Indian and Chinese. He also confirmed that all these groups, if foreign and not South African citizens, were excluded.

More than 25.1% “unrealistic”

DG October, when asked by ANC MPs whether the 25.1% target for black ownership was realistic and fair considering that the demographics in South Africa demonstrated a far larger proportion of black people, he said that 25.1% could be considered as a “basic critical mass to engender a solid forward movement”.  To go any further would be unrealistic, he added.

In Malaysia, he said, local ownership was considered fair at 30% and other African countries as high as 50%, but he felt that in South Africa, where the need for the transfer of skills and training from large to small companies, especially through supplier development by state utilities and large businesses, was essential, this was a fair percentage assumption and which called for co-operation and fairness between all parties, all bearing in mind “a pretty hideous past”.

Redress of the past in all preambles

joan fubbsAt this point, Chairperson Joan Fubbs referred to the South African Constitution, reading out the clauses which not only stated that all were equal despite race colour or creed but that discrimination was possible if it was fair and she reminded MPs that redress of the past was “fair”.

She asked for all “not to isolate clauses in the Codes to determine personalised interests but get on with job of re-aligning communities that had been excluded from ownership for over 300 years”.

One ANC MP asked that the focus on big businesses be less emphasised and that DTI rather spent considerably more time with the job of developing ownership of black small business, which he stated could be “the power house of South Africa”.

He called for legislation that enforced government and public utilities, “as custodians of state power” to set an example on supplier development since, he said, one could hardly expect the private sector to follow suit, if the SOEs did not lead the way on this issue.

Incentives needed, not law says DTI

DG October said such sort of things were “impractical in the real world” and said the main challenge was a phased process of change which now had the support of many in positions of power in business. He also emphasised that B-BBEE had to tie in business and industry with incentives rather than with the law.

When asked about his recent public statement that he had set DTI’s target to produce “100 black industrialists”, he was referring rather to 100 black industrial leaders “financed and supported by DTI initiatives”.

Other articles in this category or as background
BEE comes under media scrutiny – ParlyReportSA
Rumblings in labour circles on BEE – ParlyReport
B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice far more onerous – ParlyReportSA
One year to implement B-BBEE Codes – ParlyReportSA

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