After two years of intensive work, the National Planning Commission (NPC) is close to concluding the first phase of its assignment – the tabling before Cabinet of a vision and plan for 2030.
Optimally, the Plan should mobilise all South Africans around a programme to meet our developmental goals. The approach is to focus on the outer years by setting key targets and then to broadly map a path to attain those objectives in a way that carefully allows departments to retain the responsibility for policy detail and for implementation, for which they are accountable to Parliament.
On 11 May 2010, President Zuma launched the National Planning Commission as an extraordinarily bold initiative. He said on that occasion, “The National Planning Commission will revitalise the work of government. By drawing on the best available expertise the Commission will be able to identify and confront the challenges head-on. Government has often taken a sectoral and short-term view that has hampered development. Taking a long-term and independent view will add impetus, focus and coherence to our work.”
We have previously said that this statement is fraught with risk and so we want to again commend the President for being innovative and forward-looking. The President invited 25 individuals from outside of government to “take a long-term and independent view” that would “add impetus, focus and coherence” to the work of government.
My task today is to provide more detail of the progress made in the National Planning Commission and to set out our work programme for the rest of the 2012/13 financial year.
In June 2011, the Commission released a diagnostic report. This report set out the overriding objectives of a national plan which is the eradication of poverty and reduction of inequality by 2030. In addition to providing elements of a vision statement, the diagnostic report set out nine key challenges that stand in the way of us achieving our objectives.
Of these nine, we concluded that two were more important – the fact that too few people work and that the quality of school education for black learners remained poor. Other challenges we identified included our infrastructure backlogs, the unsustainable use of natural resources, the spatial divides that exclude the poor from economic advancement and the uneven quality of our public services.
Following a national road show on the diagnostic document, South Africans asked us to add four new areas to our list of nine challenges. These are the rural economy, social protection, citizen safety and South Africa in the region and the world. In general, the public welcomed the diagnostic report as a frank and accurate account of our successes and failings, providing a useful basis to start working on a plan to remedy the situation.
In November 2011, the National Planning Commission released a draft vision statement and a draft National Development Plan for public consideration. The Plan draws attention to matters that are both immediately within the grasp of government, and those that will shape development over the next twenty or so years, that the government in South Africa as governments elsewhere will have to confront.
In South Africa, the challenge is perhaps greater because the mandate of the Constitution is so incredibly strong. Among the key features of the next period will be a series of uncertainties in the broader environment in which we work, and we must be able to take decisions informed by the principles and values of our Constitution. So the risks implicit in establishing the National Planning Commission primarily from outside of government should prove to have been adequately measured.
The opening lines of the proposed Plan, tabled in November last year state,
In the next few decades, the world will experience unprecedented changes. These include an explosion of urbanisation, which will create wealth and sharpen strains on the ecosystem; revolutionary developments in science and technology that will transform opportunities, introduce new risks, and drive wider social integration; and a rebalancing of economic power from developed to developing countries that will potentially lift another billion people out of poverty.
The cumulative effects of these trends are highly uncertain. Higher levels of interconnectivity in the global system – engaging a much larger number of actors with different interests and beliefs – makes it difficult to understand how the system will respond in any given scenario.
The Commission recognised that it was important that the proposals in the draft Plan to address these uncertainties be discussed and owned by the people whose lives it sought to change. Over the past six months since releasing the Plan, we have embarked on one of the most extensive public consultation processes since the drafting of the Constitution in the mid-1990s. In addition to talking to the citizens of the country, there was extensive consultation with national government departments, provinces, organised local government, state-owned enterprises and DFIs.
This engagement has been a most remarkable journey of learning. South Africans, representing a wide spectrum of backgrounds and interests, have been remarkably generous in their consultation with the National Planning Commission.
They are generous in their overall support for the work of the Commission, generous in their support for the observations in the diagnostic document and the recommendations proposed in the Plan; but they are also generous in their criticism of both the style and content of the work of the Commission, and exceedingly generous in sharing their proposals for alternatives. This remarkable exercise in democratic engagement is reminiscent of all the enthusiasm that characterised the spirit in which our Constitution was adopted on 8 May 1996 in this very Chamber.
One of the most important sectors that we consulted was, of course, Parliament as the elected representatives of the people. We would like to, therefore, express appreciation to Parliament for affording the Commission an opportunity to present and discuss in detail the Plan. As Honourable Members will recall, on 14 March 2012, we briefed the members of the National Assembly and responded to comments and questions over a full day. Between 17 April and 19 April, we held separate briefings with four clusters of committees covering the economy, governance and administration, peace and security and social services.
Based on these interactions, we received a submission from the Speaker which provides the Commission not only with a summary of the interaction but includes constructive recommendations from each cluster. Let me share some of the recommendations that the NPC has received from the National Assembly.
Included are recommendations such as:
There must be a political will to eliminate corruption. Officials who had been found to have been involved in corruption should be administratively and legally dealt with, irrespective of whether the contractor that was awarded a tender is connected to a politician.
The Plan should specify how strategic partnerships should be identified and established to ensure mutual benefit and addressing domestic priorities. The focus should be on economic diplomacy with strategic countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Primary health care should be at the core of interventions aimed at health promotion.
The Commission should consider including the following additional focus areas in its Plan:
i) The role of punishment in building safer communities, with a particular emphasis on alternative sentencing for ‘minor’ offences.
ii) The impact of cybercrime.
iii) Specialised services for sexual offences across the criminal justice system.
iv) A vision for defence that takes into account the Defence Review.
On 25 April 2012, we also discussed the Plan in detail with the National Council of Provinces.
Honourable Speaker, in addition to these discussions, we also held offline discussions with most of the political parties represented in Parliament. These discussions in Parliament confirmed what we found in the public consultation and in the government engagement process. There is broad support for the objectives of the Plan – the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality and for the Plan itself. People welcomed the Plan as pragmatic, realistic and detailed. There is a tremendous amount of goodwill in the country and the comments on the Plan reflect this.
It is fundamentally important that we understand that this widespread support of the detailed proposals emanates from the support of the general philosophy behind the Plan. This philosophy is shaped by the strong forces of our history and the general consensus that we must rise above it.
It can be summarised as:
The need to unite South Africans of all races and classes around a common programme to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality.
The need for citizens to be active in their own development, in strengthening democracy and in holding their government accountable.
The need for a capable state able to drive a developmental agenda.
The need to focus on key capabilities of both people and the country. These capabilities include skills, infrastructure, social security, strong institutions and partnerships both within the country and with key international partners.
The need to raise economic growth, promote exports and make the economy more labour absorbing.
The need for strong leadership throughout society to work together to solve our problems.
There have also been criticisms of the Plan, levelled from various quarters. Some have argued that the Plan is uneven across the thematic areas with some being strong with others being incredibly weak. Some of the chapters contain too many broad, nice statements without confronting the trade-offs or addressing how this will happen.
It has been suggested that the Plan is weak on the precise role of the private sector in supporting the developmental agenda. Readers would know that the Plan is critical of narrow Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)but does not provide sufficiently strong alternatives to promote economic transformation. Environmentalists have critiqued the Plan for being too connected to our present areas of comparative advantage such as the minerals sector.
We have listened to these comments and criticisms and we welcome the sincerity with which they were expressed.
The single biggest area of feedback is on the implementation of the Plan. Most people who support the Plan have raised questions about how the Plan will be implemented, who will implement it and what steps will be taken to ensure alignment across departments, provinces and municipalities.
These questions on implementation arise from several concerns. Firstly, there is a general recognition that there remain critical weaknesses in the capacity of the State, weaknesses that can be remedied. Secondly, there are weaknesses in our accountability chain which need honest reflection and repair. Parliament is best placed to lead such reflection and begin the process of enhancing oversight and accountability. Thirdly, there is still too little recognition in society that implementation of the Plan depends on all citizens and all sectors of society. We still have work to do in breaking the ‘government will deliver’ culture.
The Commission is presently refining the Plan. We intend releasing the refined Plan in early August. Once the Plan is presented, Cabinet will consider the Plan and, it is expected, adopt the Plan or at least an implementation framework embedded in the Plan.
It must be stressed that accountability for the implementation of the Plan rests on all of society including civil society, labour, business and government, led by the President and the Cabinet. As mentioned earlier, Parliament plays a critical role in ensuring that the Plan is implemented. Our sister department, the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation will begin the process of incorporating targets in the Plan into performance agreements and delivery agreements.
The work of the National Planning Commission does not stop when the Plan is presented and adopted.
The work of the Commission will focus on four broad areas:
Continue to mobilise support in society for the Plan and including its implementation. This includes working towards greater social cohesion and exploring the feasibility of a broader social compact on key developmental issues.
On-going research into critical areas of development to support planning and policy development. This includes working with provinces and municipalities to deepen the planning framework and enhance the quality of plans.
Advise government on implementing the Plan; and
Work with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation to monitor the implementation of the Plan.
There are several priority areas where we, as South Africans need more research and policy development. I want to remind Members that the Green Paper detailing the establishment of the Commission indicates that “on an on-going basis, the National Planning Commission would produce research reports and discussion papers on key cross cutting issues that affect our development.” In the course of the next two years, we will focus on the following priority areas:
Food security, water security and rural development
Adaptation strategies and environmental resilience
More effective models of black economic empowerment
Exercise, diets, nutrition and other preventative health areas
Social cohesion and language
Disability policy and
Partnerships for innovation.
Honourable Speaker, the budget for the National Planning Commission for 2012/13 is R95,6 million. This budget covers the cost of the Ministry, the running costs of the Commission, research and policy services, the secretariat, communication and public participation. The budget for compensation of employees is R36,8 (R36,744) million, just marginally higher than the R34,2 (R34, 196) million estimated expenditure in 2011/12.
Also included in this amount is R20 million for the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS). NIDS is South Africa’s only national panel study tracking income and other social indicators for 9 600 households. At present, the third wave of NIDS is underway, providing invaluable information to government and society on poverty and income dynamics.
Honourable Speaker, I wish to thank the other 25 members of the National Planning Commission. There is a joke in the secretariat that says that commissioners are actually full time, but we only pay them as though they are part-time. I have been amazed at the time and commitment of commissioners who each have day jobs and significant social, academic and business pressures. They have indeed taken up the challenge of the President in working for the country at large, unbound by silos and short-term interests.
Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa has provided invaluable support in helping to steer the proceedings of the Commission, drawing from his experience in these very halls.
The NPC Secretariat is a relatively small unit – it comprises all of 22 staffers, ably led by Mr Kuben Naidoo, who has acted as Head of the Secretariat since its establishment two years ago. The Secretariat has not been a place for the faint-hearted or for clock-watchers. It is a centre of determination, diligence and intellectual energy. It is appropriate that I express that appreciation to the Secretariat – pound for pound and rand for rand, they deliver a truly remarkable output and value for money.
I would also like to recognise Dr Cassius R Lubisi, the Director-General and the administrative staff in the Presidency for their role in sustaining the work of the National Planning Commission. Being a new entity in the Presidency, we have had significant teething problems in setting up the administration.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for their on-going support in nurturing what is a still new endeavour.
Honourable Speaker, President Zuma and Deputy President Motlanthe have held the hands of the commissioners as we walked our first tentative steps. Without their support and encouragement, we would not been able to deliver what we have delivered. Their political steer, support and encouragement inspire us to do even more.
I leave you with a quote from our draft Vision published in November 2011.
It is important to note that our vision is written as though we are in 2030:
Government begins in the home, grows into the community, expands towards the city, flares toward the province, and engulfs the entire land.
We know our leaders as we have elected them and pledged them into office:
They are wise in the use of our wealth
Wise in knowing and understanding our wishes and needs
Wise in expecting us to express ourselves to them in any appropriate manner we have agreed to be allowable
Wise in not silencing those who criticise, but enable them, through our rules of engagement, to be even more rigorous in supporting a just society.
Our leaders' wisdom is ours, because we sense our wisdom in theirs.
They do more than respond to us:
They bring new thoughts and ideas
They share with us what they think
They inspire us, because we then seek to aspire with them
With them we renew our world continuously.
We have to believe ourselves capable of reaching that state.