Tag Archive | portfolio committee on trade and industry

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

 

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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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Small business gets R1bn incentive scheme

Tax relief and business incentives

The new small business development department (SBDD) has transferred from the department of trade and industry (DTI) the R1bn fund which covers both corporate incentives to develop small business and the Small  Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA).

However, it will leave with DTI all matters relating to B-BBEE insofar as regulations are concerned.  Both the new minister, Lindiwe Zulu, and deputy minister, Elizabeth Thabethe, were present for a short departmental briefing by SBDD given to the new small business portfolio committee chaired by Ruth Bengu, who in the last parliamentary period served as chair of the transport committee.

Revised thinking

In an earlier portfolio committee meeting of trade and industry, a few days before under their chair, experienced ANC member Joan Fubbs, DTI had called for a rethink on small business policy.

They said they wanted to see a clearer policy on the SMME support role by national government with provincial and local government and to establish a programme for rolling out more small business “incubators”- something that opposition parties had been calling for over a long period of time.

Also DTI supported the call to review the small claims court system so that access to affordable justice was more affordable. They wanted this to be a further target of the new department.

Such recommendations came amidst a foray of criticism by commentators that the new department could become a diversion for unsolvable small business issues or alternatively the new department could become merely a point for start-up small business without any real muscle.

Less red tape

The new department in addressing MPs confirmed to them that its mandate was to focus on “enhanced business support” and they emphasised their support for women, people with disabilities and to provide mechanisms to access finance, business skills development.  They also said they were there to ease regulatory conditions; to help regulate better the SMME environment and to give leverage on public procurement.

It was important to recognise, SBDD said, that it was also there to encourage the development of cooperative entities, in which instance shareholders themselves were the members and entrepreneurs. Finally, the process of creating market access was an important task, they added. Nothing was new here.

But opposition ears pricked up when they said tax relief grants to corporates that invested in small business development were to be considered and incubation programmes and technology upliftment were priorities.  The immediate future, however, was all about configuring the new department; the “migration” of responsibilities from DTI; and transferring allocations for the establishment of support institutions.

Chair of the committee, Ruth Bhengu – previously chair of the parliamentary transport committee – then called for response from opposition members which mainly came from Toby Chance of the DA, whose questions were answered by both by the new minister and deputy minister.

Jobs or not

Chance said that whilst applauding the formation of this department, he wanted to know whether or not any success was to be measured in terms of jobs created,  which to him was the bottom line, he said. Also he wanted a clearer definition of what government actually meant by the term “small business”.

He said there were plenty of “gleaming new supermarkets in our townships but very little industrial developments, in fact some industrial parks were in a state of decay.” Chance said the DA was also worried that the impact of new labour legislation and labour regulations was immobilising small business and the amount of red tape currently being experienced was becoming “out of hand”.

Chance said he hoped the new department recognised the fact that that corporates and industry should focus on the development of small businesses to create the job growth called for by the NDP.   Partnerships with small business were the best way of achieving this, he noted.  He concluded that all “tax incentives should be re-visited” and that more emphasis should be laid on small manufacturing businesses.

In reply, minister Lindiwe Zulu agreed on the issue of red tape as a hindrance to small business and said her objective was to become like Rwanda where direct contact with national bodies that supported initiatives was far easier.

Compliance for all

However, she said that business had to understand that it had a role to play and a “culture of compliance” had to be encouraged in both small and large business and manufacturers or there would be anarchy.   Also large businesses and the state will have pay small business invoices on thirty days or risk penalties.

The minister said on the subject of labour regulations, dept of labour had its own targets and own agenda on decent work conditions and that was a separate issue. “The job of small business development was to work inside current conditions and for business to respect that.”

Chance replied that the governing party seemed to have “developed a track record of “attacking business persons when they criticised ANC economic policies or asked tough questions”, which statement prompted vehement denials from the minister and deputy minister.

Other articles in this category or as background
//parlyreportsa.co.za//trade-industry/licensing-of-businesses-bill-re-emerges/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//bee/minister-davies-gets-cooperatives-bill-approved/
//parlyreportsa.co.za//parlyreport-contacts/cabinet-ministers/ministry-small-business-development/

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