/ 11 November 2011

Private sector please apply

The state is too weak to fix the country’s many economic and social ills, and “spectacular failures” to implement key industrial and economic policies are undermining job creation and growth targets.

The implication is that the ambitious New Growth Path (NGP), for example, whose primary target is five-million new jobs by 2020, could be dead in the water if the government is unable to implement key deliverables. The reality is that the government is reeling under capacity woes.

This rude awakening is the main thread running through the National Planning Commission’s (NPC) new draft blueprint for 2030, where it details solutions to the nine key challenges outlined in its gloomy June 11 diagnostics report.

The NPC’s draft blueprint had not been released by the time Mail & Guardian went to press, but key details had emerged and it prepared for the release on Friday. The draft is understood to state that, in theory, there is nothing wrong with growth policies and plans such as the growth, employment and redistribution (Gear) programme, the accelerated and shared growth initiative for South Africa (Asgisa) and the NGP. But the government lacks the capabilities and capacity to bring these plans to fruition.

“There are huge implementation failures,” said a commission member.

The state of affairs implies that South Africa’s long-term development goals, particularly those linked to employment, re-industrialisation, skills development and climate change, are unlikely to be realised.

The commission broadly concludes that, because the country has a weak state, by default, we have had a skewed development programme.

The commission, headed by Trevor Manuel, sits within the presidency. It does not have executive powers, but it plays an advisory role and is tasked with mapping out a vision of what the country should look like in 2030, and a plan for achieving the growth and development.

The government has often taken a sectoral and short-term view that has hampered development.

Collaborative approach
In its draft 2030 plan, the commission calls for a more collaborative approach — for the private sector and communities to roll up their sleeves and make big on promises; the kind of approach the country witnessed during the 2010 Soccer World Cup when the entire nation, and largely the private sector, clubbed in to finish all infrastructure projects in time. Equally, communities around the country played their part in making the event a success.

The commission says the expectations and demands on the government to deliver quality education, quality water, quality healthcare and other basic services are not sustainable. There must be a paradigm shift so that the government, business and communities become partners.

One of the examples cited is in education. The commission says that it is easy for the government to provide the funds to build a school and hire teachers, but there must be commitment from the community to ensure that teachers are in the classroom teaching, that their children are in class on time and that resources are being maintained. There should be a new focus on social responsibility and investment at all levels.

The solution: enter the new push for public-private partnerships (PPPs). Most countries in the rest of Africa are already seeing huge successes and growth through such partnerships.

In some sectors, however, there are recommendations for partial privatisation. This would work well in transport, rail, ports and energy sectors, which have been blamed for hindering growth and threatening foreign investment flows into the country.

In markets such as Brazil, Canada and Australia (South Africa’s main competitor in resources, for example), companies are funding, building and maintaining these infrastructures.

There are also detailed proposals on improving the core competencies of the public service, accountability, skills shortages and organisation of state departments, as well as on the relationship between regulators and state-owned enterprises.

One of the proposals on improving labour-market inefficiencies is to align the largely dysfunctional sector education and training authorities (Setas) with the further education and training (FET) colleges.

Industry will be called on to help the colleges to chart the courses needed in the labour market. Currently there is a mismatch between the skills and education emanating from tertiary institutions and what is needed by companies.

Another key message is on social inclusion. There is a strong emphasis on inclusivity and social cohesion. A completely new urban planning framework is mooted, with a long section on spatial planning and transport. The plan is to build or move homes closer to where people work.

The 2030 draft vision will be put out for public consultation, after which the Cabinet will have to vet a refined plan.