Comment and Analysis

An inclusive plan for a more equal future

Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa is building its future and the National Development Plan's target of poverty elimination requires effort by every South African.

The national planning commission this week released the national development plan and a vision for 2030. (M&G)

We need to work together if we are to ensure that it is a future our country deserves. The national planning commission this week released the national development plan and a vision for 2030. The plan provides an opportunity for South Africa to rethink its strategies and priorities; an opportunity to re-energise South Africans around a common programme for a collective future.

The plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. By 2030, no family should have to live on less than R432 per person per month (adjusted for inflation). This goal will need to be achieved through rising employment, higher earnings from increased productivity, better public services and a social wage. The plan also tackles inequality by redressing historical inequities in opportunity. All children irrespective of background should be able to fulfil their dreams.

The plan draws on comments from thousands of South Africans and hundreds of meetings with organisations big and small. Countless pages of research and evidence have been considered. The commission scanned the international environment for emerging trends that would influence the future and it used a new demographic model to make forecasts for 2030. The national development plan stands out both for the participatory approach used in developing it and for its reliance on the best evidence.

The plan to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality revolves around six pillars:

  • Uniting South Africans of all races and classes around a common programme;
  • Fostering active citizenry so that citizens play a leading role in the development of the country;
  • Promoting faster and more inclusive economic growth;
  • Developing the capabilities of people and of the country to compete in a modern, ever-changing world;
  • Building a capable and ­developmental state; and
  • Bringing together leaders throughout society to work together to solve complex problems.

The broad focus of the plan is to build people's capabilities so they can live the lives they desire. These capabilities include nutrition, education, health, public transport and work opportunities. The country also needs to enhance its capabilities - especially in economic and social infrastructure - to support a growing economy and greater economic inclusion. We need a capable and developmental state able to intervene to correct historical inequities. Spatial settlement patterns need to change to ensure that the poor no longer live far from places of work. Our use of natural resources needs to be made more sustainable. We need social safety nets to support people when they need it most.

More than income
Although income from employment or social security is critical to improving living standards, human beings require more than income. They seek safe and reliable public transport, safer communities and clean neighbourhoods. That is why the national development plan makes a firm commitment to achieving a minimum standard of living that can be progressively realised through a multipronged strategy. Although the minimum standard of living is not defined, a framework is provided for the adoption of such a standard of living by society.

The plan is detailed. It provides targets in 13 areas. It makes firm proposals on how these targets can be met. It makes recommendations on the institutional reforms required to ensure effective implementation. It sets critical success factors to ensure the plan is implemented properly. Most importantly, it is a plan for the country. Responsibility for implementation lies with all of us: government, business, trade unions, civil society and citizens. No single social force, not even government, can implement the plan on its own. It requires a joint effort, constant dialogue and partnerships throughout society.

On its present trajectory, South Africa will not meet its objective of eliminating poverty by 2030. The economy will not support full employment or rising living standards for all. In fact, there is a real risk that if we do not address the challenges confronting our youth with greater urgency and more focus, South Africa may slide backwards.

The world is not standing still. Countries are taking extraordinary measures to improve their competitiveness, invest in their people and boost their research and development capabilities. South Africa will get left behind if it does not grasp the opportunities for change.

South Africa has an urbanising, youthful population. This presents an opportunity to boost economic growth, increase employment and reduce poverty. Thus, the commission has focused on programmes that address youth interests.

These include nutrition intervention for pregnant women and young children and universal access to two years of early childhood development. The plan also emphasises improvements to the school system  including increasing the number of students achieving above 50% in literacy and mathematics, increasing learner-retention rates to 90% and bolstering teacher training. It seeks to strengthen youth-service programmes and to introduce new community-based programmes to offer young people life-skills training, entrepreneurship training and opportunities to participate in community development programmes.

Full funding
The plan aims to strengthen and expand the number of further education and training colleges to increase participation in these institutions and provide full funding for tuition, books, accommodation and living allowances for students from poor families.

To address the enormous challenge of youth unemployment, the plan proposes a tax incentive to employers to reduce the initial cost of hiring young labour-market entrants. It includes a subsidy to the placement sector to identify, prepare and place matric graduates in work. It anticipates the expansion of the role of state-owned enterprises in training artisans and technical professionals.

These proposals are an example of the many practical and concrete proposals made by the commission to achieve a South Africa without poverty and a much more equal society.

For the plan to be successful, it has to be implemented by every South African and all major social partners. Government has a special role to play in leading the country and in implementing its key aspects.

The success of the plan requires focused leadership over a long period of time. It needs institutional reform and the mobilisation of resources. Importantly, it requires trade-offs, a willingness to prioritise and the need for careful sequencing.

The commission will play an ongoing role in mobilising society around the plan, advising government and other social partners on implementation, conducting research on long-term development issues and reporting on progress in implementation.

The national development plan gives South Africa the opportunity to unite around a common vision and plan for a better future. Success is possible, but it will require all South Africans to be part of change. The actions we take today, as a country, will determine whether South Africa has a successful future with expanding opportunities and improving living standards for all its people.

Cyril Ramaphosa is the deputy chairperson of the national­ ­planning commission

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