On 10 November 2010, Ed Richardson wrote on MyPE:
There is no question that it would be wonderful for Port Elizabeth to have a vibrant waterfront, and for the city to reconnect with the harbour – but it would be interesting to find out just how it is going to create the 120 000 jobs claimed.
This is important, because business and career decisions are going to be made on the prospects of the waterfront development. The number seems a little ambitious, if we look at the facts: at present, the formal sector in Nelson Mandela Bay supports 227 294 jobs, according to Rand International Capital interpretation of Global Insight. We are being told that a waterfront would create 50% more jobs.
This does not seem to gel with the facts. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town – which attracts over 22 million visitors a year – supported around 11 000 jobs in 1994, according to a paper published in 2009 by Pieter van Zyl, executive manager – Planning & Development, at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. This was expected to increase to 12 270 by the completion of the development, he says.
“A cumulative total of some 21 000 jobs are likely to have been sustained at the V&A Waterfront through the project’s development and construction activities,” he adds.
We are asked to believe that Port Elizabeth’s waterfront – which would cover a much smaller area and not have the iconic status of Cape Town and The Mountain – will create five times more jobs.
More credible is an economic assessment of a proposed Kings Beach waterfront by Port Elizabeth-based financial analyst and economist for Rand International Capital, Derek Zimmerman, which indicates that it would support around 18 300 jobs when fully operational.
Similarly, The Boardwalk, will support just over 2 200 jobs once it has built a new conference centre, hotel, shops and giant water fountain, according to the bid document. The Boardwalk covers much the same area as the proposed waterfront.
Coega – which covers 11 000 hectares – currently employs 2 622 people, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. At its height when building the first phase of the IDZ and port of Ngqura, Coega created around 5 000 construction jobs.
It is, therefore, understandable that some would be sceptical about the job creation numbers. This scepticism impacts on the credibility of the whole project.
Business and the people of the metro have seen way too many promises and pipe dreams. If the waterfront is to enjoy their support, the claims of job and wealth creation must be backed up.
And both Transnet and the motor industry need to enter the debate. How many jobs are at risk if the port is transformed from a working harbour to a leisure destination?
As citizens, we need to be informed.