Zuma confident World Cup will create jobs

JOHANNESBURG - South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday he was confident the Soccer World Cup, hosted for the first time in Africa, will boost job creation and economic growth in his country.

"The event itself has created such an opportunity that our economy is not going to be of the same size after the 2010 World Cup. Certainly, therefore, GDP will grow from where it has been," Zuma said in an interview with Reuters Insider television.

"We are confident that the employment numbers will grow."

Unemployment in South Africa is officially around 25 percent but analysts say the figure could be as high as 40 percent.

The president said threats of strike action during the World Cup from unions were not directly targeted at the event as wage negotiations and strikes traditionally took place each year around June or July during the so-called "strike season".

"The strikes are always a matter of concern but there is nothing extraordinary because we are dealing with what we always deal with during this time," Zuma said.

Unions representing workers at power utility Eskom have given the company until Thursday to come up with a better deal and avert a potentially damaging strike during the World Cup.

A possible work stoppage at Eskom follows a series of threats of labour action to freeze transport, abandon security posts and tie up immigration at airports during the sporting event if demands for better pay and conditions are not met.

KICKSTART DEVELOPMENT

Analysts estimate that the month-long tournament could add around 0.5 percentage points to South Africa's GDP in 2010. A Reuters poll in May found forecasts ranging from 0.1-0.7 percent with a median of 0.3 percent.

The government has spent around 40 billion rand ($5.40 billion) on infrastructure projects, and billions more on upgrading roads and airports.

A study by accountants Grant Thornton found that foreigners would inject 13 billion rand into the economy during the World Cup while the estimated gross econoomic impact - including indirect and infrastructure spending will be 93 billlion rand.

Zuma told a Reuters Newsmaker event later that the World Cup could kickstart development in Africa's biggest economy.

"We view the World Cup as a catalyst for development."

He said some of the positive impacts from the event would be further job creation and infrastructure development.

"We are very confident that after this, employment will go up," Zuma said in the Reuters Insider interview.

He urged South Africans to continue supporting the national soccer squad Bafana Bafana (The Boys) who face a crunch game against France on Tuesday.

South Africa needs to win the match by a big score to avert an early exit from the tournament - the first time a host nation would not have progressed to the second round.

"We urge the nation to keep supporting Bafana Bafana and to come out in the customary huge numbers this evening at the stadiums and fan parks," Zuma said.

He said the World Cup had thrown South Africa on to the global stage.

"The world has descended on South and it experienced South Africa as a country (and) a very important investment destination."

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