17 October 2012
As we chart our way through turbulent economic and development waters, we should take a moment to reflect on the guiding principles, or simply pull out the compass which guides us on this journey.
When President Jacob Zuma took over as president of the country in 2009, he immediately gave substance to the vision of a better life for all. He stressed that it was important for us to move away from “piecemeal planning” and work together in a coordinated and systematic way.
This led to the establishment of the National Planning Commission (NPC), a body tasked with developing a long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa – a guide and a compass to steer by. To develop this strategic plan, the president called on the NPC to engage in robust discussion across the country and provide opportunities for people to come forward with ideas and suggestions.
A little more than two years later in August this year, Minister Trevor Manuel handed over the National Development Plan (NDP) to President Zuma at a joint sitting of Parliament. The plan, which was endorsed by Cabinet takes an independent and critical view of socio-economic challenges facing the country and deals clearly with what needs to be done to get to where we need to be.
In essence, it seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. It also identified improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation as key priorities to achieve a better life for all. According to the document, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.
Addressing a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament convened to present the plan to President Zuma, National Planning Commission Minister Manuel called on all South Africans to embrace the plan, saying: “It is a plan for our collective future. It is up to all of us to make it work. We speak of a future with expanding opportunities. We speak of a future we must shape, because we care and because we cannot miss the opportunity to do so.”
This was indeed the case and the voices of countless South Africans were listened to as reflected by the Minister: “We received comments from individuals and organisations and engaged with government departments, provinces, municipalities, state-owned enterprises, and agencies.” In addition, 500 written submissions were received from members of the public.
Speaking in Parliament at the handover of the NDP, President Zuma called on South Africans to take ownership of the proposals. He urged all South Africans irrespective of political affiliations to engage it. He said: “We urge all sectors to also engage with the Plan – the school governing boards, companies, newsrooms, university councils, religious gatherings, unions, political parties and many other important gatherings of our people. We encourage schools, especially Grades 10, 11 and 12 to study the plan. This will help children in career planning, as they will understand the priorities and vision of the country.”
The plan is in line with the New Growth Path framework and charts the way to faster economic growth, higher investment and job creation. According to the president, “it states that we should reduce the unemployment rate from 24.9% in June 2012 to 14% by 2020, and to 6% by 2030, which would require an additional 11 million jobs. This would help us tackle youth and women unemployment.”
Welcoming the NDP as an essential roadmap, Business Unity SA CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni, said: “What matters now to business is that the NDP must be urgently implemented, to create the certainty and predictability that business and investor confidence needs. The NDP also emphasises what business has been saying for some time – that all the plans and projects in the world will fail without successful implementation.”
The NDP is not, however, the only new initiative implemented by President Zuma’s administration. The president has also sought to strengthen strategic planning as well as performance monitoring and evaluation in government, through the Ministry of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.
In his first state of the nation address, the president announced: “A developmental state requires the improvement of public services and strengthening of democratic institutions. To ensure delivery on our commitments, we will hold cabinet ministers accountable through performance instruments, using established targets and output measures, starting in July (2009).” This initiative has assisted departments to set measurable performance targets and use data to formulate and assess policies.
“The initiatives that we put in place today, and the combined effort to ensure it succeeds, will define the country we want for future generations. The NDP has mapped the route we need to follow and performance monitoring and evaluation will assist in keeping us on track. We call on all the young people as the future leaders of this country to familiarise themselves with the NDP. As they enter the labour market whether in the private or public sector the country owes it to them to ensure vision 2030 becomes a reality.”
What sets leaders and governments apart is the capacity to see ahead, take a long-term view and come up with types of new initiatives that will have positive impact in the country and in turn result in real change. The NDP is such a vehicle, it is up to all of us to embrace it and make it work.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)