Vision of the future takes shape

Until mid-year, when the Cabinet will consider the final version of the national development plan — or “Vision 2030” — and formally approve it, it remains a draft document.

But, for a draft document, the National Planning Commission’s work appears to be gaining traction in policy debates and several proposals made in it have dovetailed with work the state is already doing and tie in with its plan to develop infrastructure.

The plan identifies at least 89 actions necessary to achieve two important goals — to reduce the number of households living on less than R418 a person a month from 39% to zero and reduce inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient from 0.7 to 0.6 by 2030.

The actions relate to the themes of the plan and include improving education, innovation and training, promoting health and developing economic infrastructure.

President Jacob Zuma made the announcement about infrastructure in his State of the Nation address, in effect launching the actions listed in the plan. They include upgrading the Durban-Gauteng logistics corridor, expanding rail infrastructure, especially along the coal, iron and manganese routes, upgrading the water infrastructure of the Umzimvumbu River basin and building two universities, one in Mpumalanga and the other in the Northern Cape.


Although these projects have not been given the go-ahead, according to this year’s budget, all are in concept, pre-feasibility or feasibility stages. There are also a number of actions that incorporate long-existing policy discussions, such as those about the need to rationalise the social welfare payment systems.

In last year’s budget, the treasury raised the need to restructure social welfare payments done by different agencies in different departments, including the South African Social Security Agency and the Unemployment Insurance Fund. According to this year’s budget, there are plans to deliver a green paper on the restructuring.

Kuben Naidoo, acting head of the National Planning Commission secretariat, said that among the main debates arising from the plan were the need to build a capable state and fight corruption.

“Other areas where there have been positive responses include the proposals on energy security, ­transport planning, spatial planning and raising school accountability,” he said.

Suggestions in the plan have also been echoed in the ANC’s policy discussion documents, which will be finalised at the party’s policy conference in June.

In its discussion of state intervention in the resources sector, the ANC backs the plan’s call to secure domestic demand for coal for South Africa’s power stations. Both the plan and the ANC recommend further exploration of shale gas as a source of energy.

The ANC’s discussion document on education highlights the need for better management to improve performance, which ties in with the national development plan’s proposal for competency standards and the assessment of teachers.

Similarly, the ANC policy document on economic transformation acknowledges concerns that the state is seen as “impotent”, which underscores a major theme of the plan, namely to create a capable state.

But there are many differences too. The ANC comes out strongly against the idea of a carbon tax, but the plan recommends the introduction of such a tax as an instrument to “incentivise efficiency, coupled with a range of policy instruments targeting specific mitigation opportunities”.

But what of more politically contested issues?

Both the treasury and the commission make a case for the introduction of a youth wage subsidy to address unemployment. The need to soften labour market regulations, such as a simplified dismissal procedure for misconduct, is another example.

Naidoo said that, even in the more sensitive areas, some suggestions had found favour.

“Even in the area of the labour market, some of the proposals to take senior managers out of the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] and the idea of a specific definition for small businesses are broadly accepted in Nedlac [National Economic Development and Labour Council],” he said. “There has also been broad support for many of the recommendations on the professionalising of the public service.”

The plan’s proposal to postpone nuclear development and explore the potential of gas reserves is more difficult to reconcile.

Naidoo said the government’s integrated resource plan 2010 on electricity was policy and no deviations from it had been announced. However, the resource plan was drawn up with possible revisions in mind to allow for some flexibility in energy planning, he said. Any revision of it could take into account further cost considerations on nuclear procurement as well as new developments in gas, he said.

Minister of Planning Trevor Manuel has noted that this long “to do” list is not sequential and many of the steps that must be taken can be implemented immediately.

Naidoo said some of the issues had to be addressed at once, even if the results took longer to feed into society and the economy.

“When it comes to specific recommendations, it’s clear that we need to work more urgently on certain key pillars, including building a more capable state. Of particular urgency is the need to improve the quality of school education, recognising that this will take time to feed into the economy and society.

“Thirdly, we need to encourage faster economic growth through investment, through reducing costs for business and through improving the functioning of the labour market,” he said.

“The fact that proposals in the plan are being reflected in public and policy debates is not surprising, given that the commissioners have taken the consultation process very seriously and have spent the past three months travelling across the country to hold meetings with a wide range of organisations,” said Naidoo.

These included provincial and national government departments and private sector and special interest groups such as trade unions, churches and non-governmental organisations, he said.

But the test will come at the Cabinet’s mid-year lekgotla when the commission tables a final version of the plan, taking into consideration issues raised by these stakeholders. There it can be adopted, in full or in part, or rejected entirely. Until mid-year, when the Cabinet will consider the final version of the national development plan — or “Vision 2030” — and formally approve it, it remains a draft document.
But, for a draft document, the National Planning Commission’s work appears to be gaining traction in policy debates and several proposals made in it have dovetailed with work the state is already doing and tie in with its plan to develop infrastructure.

The plan identifies at least 89 actions necessary to achieve two important goals — to reduce the number of households living on less than R418 a person a month from 39% to zero and reduce inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient from 0.7 to 0.6 by 2030.

The actions relate to the themes of the plan and include improving education, innovation and training, promoting health and developing economic infrastructure.

President Jacob Zuma made the announcement about infrastructure in his State of the Nation address, in effect launching the actions listed in the plan. They include upgrading the Durban-Gauteng logistics corridor, expanding rail infrastructure, especially along the coal, iron and manganese routes, upgrading the water infrastructure of the Umzimvumbu River basin and building two universities, one in Mpumalanga and the other in the Northern Cape.

Although these projects have not been given the go-ahead, according to this year’s budget, all are in concept, pre-feasibility or feasibility stages. There are also a number of actions that incorporate long-existing policy discussions, such as those about the need to rationalise the social welfare payment systems.

In last year’s budget, the treasury raised the need to restructure social welfare payments done by different agencies in different departments, including the South African Social Security Agency and the Unemployment Insurance Fund. According to this year’s budget, there are plans to deliver a green paper on the restructuring.

Kuben Naidoo, acting head of the National Planning Commission secretariat, said that among the main debates arising from the plan were the need to build a capable state and fight corruption.

“Other areas where there have been positive responses include the proposals on energy security, ­transport planning, spatial planning and raising school accountability,” he said.

Suggestions in the plan have also been echoed in the ANC’s policy discussion documents, which will be finalised at the party’s policy conference in June.

In its discussion of state intervention in the resources sector, the ANC backs the plan’s call to secure domestic demand for coal for South Africa’s power stations. Both the plan and the ANC recommend further exploration of shale gas as a source of energy.

The ANC’s discussion document on education highlights the need for better management to improve performance, which ties in with the national development plan’s proposal for competency standards and the assessment of teachers.

Similarly, the ANC policy document on economic transformation acknowledges concerns that the state is seen as “impotent”, which underscores a major theme of the plan, namely to create a capable state.

But there are many differences too. The ANC comes out strongly against the idea of a carbon tax, but the plan recommends the introduction of such a tax as an instrument to “incentivise efficiency, coupled with a range of policy instruments targeting specific mitigation opportunities”.

But what of more politically contested issues?

Both the treasury and the commission make a case for the introduction of a youth wage subsidy to address unemployment. The need to soften labour market regulations, such as a simplified dismissal procedure for misconduct, is another example.

Naidoo said that, even in the more sensitive areas, some suggestions had found favour.

“Even in the area of the labour market, some of the proposals to take senior managers out of the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] and the idea of a specific definition for small businesses are broadly accepted in Nedlac [National Economic Development and Labour Council],” he said. “There has also been broad support for many of the recommendations on the professionalising of the public service.”

The plan’s proposal to postpone nuclear development and explore the potential of gas reserves is more difficult to reconcile.

Naidoo said the government’s integrated resource plan 2010 on electricity was policy and no deviations from it had been announced. However, the resource plan was drawn up with possible revisions in mind to allow for some flexibility in energy planning, he said. Any revision of it could take into account further cost considerations on nuclear procurement as well as new developments in gas, he said.

Minister of Planning Trevor Manuel has noted that this long “to do” list is not sequential and many of the steps that must be taken can be implemented immediately.

Naidoo said some of the issues had to be addressed at once, even if the results took longer to feed into society and the economy.

“When it comes to specific recommendations, it’s clear that we need to work more urgently on certain key pillars, including building a more capable state. Of particular urgency is the need to improve the quality of school education, recognising that this will take time to feed into the economy and society.

“Thirdly, we need to encourage faster economic growth through investment, through reducing costs for business and through improving the functioning of the labour market,” he said.

“The fact that proposals in the plan are being reflected in public and policy debates is not surprising, given that the commissioners have taken the consultation process very seriously and have spent the past three months travelling across the country to hold meetings with a wide range of organisations,” said Naidoo.

These included provincial and national government departments and private sector and special interest groups such as trade unions, churches and non-governmental organisations, he said.

But the test will come at the Cabinet’s mid-year lekgotla when the commission tables a final version of the plan, taking into consideration issues raised by these stakeholders. There it can be adopted, in full or in part, or rejected entirely.

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

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