/ 29 July 2011

Zuma to head infrastructure commission

Government is to establish two commissions to be chaired by President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in an effort to speed up infrastructure development and job creation.

This emerged at Friday’s post-Cabinet briefing that also followed a lekgotla held by government’s highest decision-making body.

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said: “Given the centrality of infrastructure development and job creation in dealing with poverty and inequality, Cabinet resolved to elevate the management of the two priorities to the presidency by establishing an Infrastructure Commission to be chaired by the president and a Job Creation Commission to be chaired by the deputy president.”

The lekgotla (cabinet think tank) was called by Zuma and held from July 26 to July 28. Motlanthe, ministers, deputy ministers and directors-general from national and provincial departments attended.

Chabane said the meeting was held with the background to the May local elections that brought into sharp focus the need to accelerate the provision of basic needs and infrastructure in rural and urban areas to improve quality of life.

“Lekgotla further emphasises that whatever blockages existed to delivery must be attended to without delay by all spheres of government,” he said.

Chabane said the meeting recalled the damage to the economy caused by the global economic downturn that cost the country about 900 000 jobs.

With that in mind, Chabane said, Cabinet had decided on a 12-point plan on job creation, which would be within the ambit of government’s economic policy called the new growth path.

Tougher action
The 12 points are: short-term employment schemes; infrastructure and public investments; unblocking investments in major projects; interventions to improve competitiveness and expand productive sectors; enterprise development and promotion of small businesses; rural development; greening the economy; mineral beneficiation; public sector training; local procurement; accelerate implementation of the Post Bank’s operations; and a focus on African development through the tripartite free trade areas.

The short-term employment scheme would include the expansion of the Community Work Programme to create up to a million jobs by 2012 to 2014. This would include the jobs fund management proactively identifying programmes that would ensure commitment of its resources, which amount to R2-billion, by the end of the current financial year.

The second point was in infrastructure and public investments that included the establishment of the commission to be headed by Zuma that would ensure the systematic selection, planning and monitoring of large projects.

“This intervention will systematically improve the state agencies to deliver infrastructure and help connect the work of all spheres of government. The revitalisation of rail infrastructure for freight and passenger was also highlighted,” Chabane said.

Unblocking investments in major projects would mean the creation of a small high-level team reporting to the coordinating ministers for the employment cluster of national departments that would focus on proposed changes and regulations to unblock private-sector projects with a substantial impact on employment investment.

“Measures will include tougher action to address the concentration of ownership and monopoly practices that limit the entry of new enterprises,” Chabane said.

On local procurement, Chabane said, the inter-departmental consultations would identify a list of products that could be designated for local procurement by September.

Related to this, Chabane said, was that firm action would be taken to combat corruption in tender processes with a high-level team to be put in place to consider complaints about tender delays or abuses that negatively impact on jobs, cost-effectiveness or economic development. — I-Net Bridge