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SA: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Budget Vote of The Presidency (11/06/2008)

17th June 2008

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Date: 11 June 2008
Title: SA: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Budget Vote of The Presidency

Salutations,

Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Distinguished guests, friends,
Ladies and gentlemen, and
Fellow South Africans:
Dumelang! Sanibonani! Goeiedag!

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Introduction

We are drawing close to the end of the third term of this democratic government. It has been 14 years of progress and challenges. 2008 is a tough year and it full of contradictions, full of milestones as well as set backs. Nothing illustrates these contradictions for our country and the world more than the food security crisis the world is currently facing.

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The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Mr Ban Ki-moon, captured it in his opening address to the conference on ‘World Food Security, challenges of climate change and bio energyâ€TM in Rome last week, and I quote:

“The threats are obvious to us all. Yet the crisis also presents us with an opportunity.”

So much in our own state of affairs represents opportunities and threats, all at the same time.

Honourable Members, we come together to take stock in this important month of June, the month of Youth. And we are reminded by our great leader Oliver Tambo that our successes will be judged by the extent to which we build a society that nurtures and unleashes the potential of young people.

I feel honoured to discuss the Budget Vote of The Presidency, which is meant to manage and develop the strategic agenda of government and give effect to the peopleâ€TMs contract.

It is important to reflect on what we have achieved despite the daunting challenges we have faced and those that still lie ahead. Specially now in this present climate of high inflation, interest rates, food insecurity, electricity shortages, high fuel costs, climate change, violence against Africans who are not of South African origin and the general concerns about service delivery to millions of our people.

We are also concerned about crime in our country and its impact on ordinary citizens. We welcome initiatives like yesterdayâ€TMs march against crime. The comments by some of the speakers at the march regarding the need to strengthen our social institutions coincide with our moral regeneration objectives. Without common values and shared concerns for fellow human beings we will not achieve our noblest goals of social cohesion. We therefore applaud the draft Charter on Positive Values soon to be launched by the Moral Regeneration Movement.

The structural faults in the global economy have impacted upon us, and this places a heavy burden on us as a developmental state.

But we have not been derailed in our goal of providing water and sanitation, restoring our public health system, caring for the elderly and infirm and educating our children for a more secure future. Yes, it is difficult, but not impossible.

Taken as a whole, these challenges, which impact on the public mood, seem daunting. I am convinced however that we are capable of turning the corner and consolidating the gains we have made in our hard-won democracy. Only and only if we adopt a “business unusual” approach and only if we own up to the extent of the challenges we face, will we have the possibility of turning these challenges into opportunities.

Lapha emsebenzini wethu kwiHovisi lika Mongameli sibambisane nabantu abaningi, ngoba siyazi ukuthi ‘injobo enhle ithungelwa ebandla.â€TM

Consultations and Co-ordinating Mechanisms

In our work within The Presidency, we are supported by our colleagues at national, provincial and local levels as well as broader members of society who give of their time, resources, energy and goodwill generously.

Platforms for engagement include the Presidential Working Groups which the President convenes and attends without fail. We also have the Presidential Co-ordinating Council, the JIPSA Joint Task Team, the International Investment Council, the Presidential Information Advisory Council, the Youth Development Forum as well as Inter-Ministerial Committees that co-ordinate work within government.

We would like to acknowledge all of the people and organisations who have assisted us in our work, some who are here with us today. I thank all of you for your support and I hope you will be able to give the team that will be in the next government the same support. Ningadinwa nangomso!

All of this co-operation would not mean anything if our own co-ordinating mechanisms as government do not meet the standards. In that regard I would like to express my appreciation for the work done by our Cabinet Office serving The Presidency and the Executive. Without this centre holding we would not have been able to serve you effectively.

Cluster System

The cluster system has also matured and filtered to all spheres of government making our collective tasks and inter-governmental co-ordination possible, within clusters, between clusters and with the ANC.

The Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) programmes cannot be implemented without greater co-ordination. Through the cluster system we have been able to plan, execute and monitor better strategic interventions such as the Infrastructure Programme, the Expanded Public Works Programme, the National Youth Service Programme and preparations for 2010 FIFA World Cup. The next team will definitely be able to refine and improve on the foundation we have laid especially because the cluster system is mirrored at political party level as well.

It should be much better once we have set up the planning capacity within government to institutionalise integrated planning. I must thank the Policy Unit in The Presidency under the leadership of Mr Joel Netshitenzhe for the sterling work they have done in all the areas of policy and executive co-ordination.

I must, however, say that we can do better and achieve even more with much greater collaboration and the removing of silos.

Fragmentation and poor co-ordination means loss of value. Through co-ordination, the ruling party has been able to work as one ANC especially to advance and inform policy. Despite what people say and think the ANC is not a ‘two headed monsterâ€TM. Whatever the challenges opportunity and renewal exists and we are forging ahead.

Madam Speaker,

The Leader of Government Business (LoGB) convened a number of meetings towards the beginning of the year with Ministers, Committee Chairs and the Chief Whips of both Houses to examine governmentâ€TMs legislative programme. This has resulted in a more accurate programme. A larger number of Bills were planned and actually tabled within the time frames. Only a few Bills failed to comply. This is a matter we are pursuing. We thank the Chief Whip and Honourable Members for assistance in this regard.

The LoGB has given fortnightly reports to Cabinet on the programme of Parliament, issues before Parliament as well as reminding Ministers of the number of unanswered Parliamentary Questions. Sometimes we get it very wrong and end up answering questions of not so impressed Ministers. Uxolo bethuna! Siyanxenxeza no JJ!

We are building greater capacity in the Office of the LoGB to monitor the legislative programme of departments and the quality of legislation. After all when you strip us of other titles, our core responsibility remains making laws. That is the essence of our existence in this Chamber. Siyizishaya Mthetho!

As the Leader of Government Business we have an essential role to fulfil in offering an interface between the Executive and Parliament. Although we may differ on some issues, the highest law of the land, our Constitution, obliges us to serve the nation together whilst you Honourable Members do your oversight work. There have been excesses in some cases which are of concern especially when there is breakdown in relations between Committees, officials and Ministers. South Africa loses when that happens as the substances become muddled up. This is a matter we have to attend to.

AsgiSA

When we launched the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA), our goal was and still is to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014. AsgiSA has been one of the most innovative yet challenging initiatives under my responsibility. We said we could only halve poverty and unemployment if we were able to grow by at least four point five (4.5%) percent on average a year between 2004 and 2009 and by at least six percent (6%) percent on average from 2010 to 2014.

Despite recent economic developments, we will most certainly make progress in some key areas. Governmentâ€TMs contribution through the R600 billion investment in infrastructure has a positive effect especially at this difficult time.

AsgiSA has been making progress in the major areas of work â€" infrastructure, skills and education, industrial strategy, sector strategies especially tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO), the small business development and second economy environment, macro-economic stability and government capacity.

Infrastructure has always been a cornerstone of AsgiSA and we are glad that visible progress has been made in the areas of building or refurbishing power stations, new stadiums for 2010, airports, railway lines, railway stations, harbours, hospitals, pipelines and telecommunications cables. We are buying and building hundreds of railway locomotives and railway lines, harbour equipment, electronic road management systems, turbines and boilers among others.

I acknowledge the shortcomings in some areas either as a result of skills shortages or misaligned legislation. I commend initiatives like Siyenza Manje which is helping municipalities address their strategic capacity.

At this stage, I must thank my Cabinet colleagues, departments, state owned enterprises and the private sector for the enormous contribution they have made towards realising our objectives.

Madam Speaker,

It is a fact that in 1994 the government inherited a weak economy with high levels of public debt, chronic unemployment, high tariff protection, low levels of competitiveness and practically no foreign investment of note. Also during this time, there was a deliberate and designed strategy to strip our workforce of their productive capacity through the systemic denial of education and training opportunities.

Due to policy interventions with foresight and aggressive economic reforms, the picture is very different 14 years later. Even with the current difficulties in the global trading environment, South Africa is attracting large Foreign Investment and we are also mobilising significant domestic investment. As the economies of Europe and North America experience a slowdown, we are attracting a lot of their productive capacity.

Highlights of recent developments on investments include:

* A rapid increase in fixed investment activity in SA on the back of a massive infrastructure investment drive by government, public corporations as well as by the private sector.

* Domestic and foreign investment pipeline

- 74 Domestic and Foreign Investment Projects. Investment Pipeline of two hundred and six (R206) billion.
- Major Greenfield projects with significant black economic empowerment (BEE) opportunities, multiplier effect and geographic spread.
- Domestic investment projects is at one hundred and forty three (R143) billion and foreign investment is at fifty three (R53) billion. One hundred and seventy one (R171) billion in the pipeline is committed or in progress.
- Manufacturing accounts for nineteen point seven (R19.7) billion. Resources account for one hundred and eighty two point seven (R182.7) billion and we have three point six million (R3.6) billion for services in the pipeline.

We recognise the work of Trade and Investment South Africa under the leadership of Trade and Industry Minister.

In line with commitments made in AsgiSA, governmentâ€TMs obligation to industrial strategy took a qualitative step forward by the adoption of the Industrial Policy Action Plan. Another milestone for the economic cluster that is important for the next team to consolidate. Again, we acknowledge the role of labour in challenging government to develop a more activist industrial strategic approach.

We are pleased with growth in the critical AsgiSA sectors in Tourism and BPO and commend co-operation between government, industry and Setas. This is another good example of collaboration despite many challenges experienced by the Setas.

With biofuels, we have approved the strategy which excludes maize in order to ensure food security. We are pleased that the recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference confirmed decisions to exclude maize from the feedstock.

The issue of rising costs of food, declining stocks and the threat of crop failure in many countries is of concern to us. Hence, the emphasis on not only short but medium to long-term strategies to improve productivity. Accordingly, we support aspects of the Rome Declaration especially where it says and I quote:

“Encourage the international community to continue its efforts in liberalising international trade in agriculture by reducing trade barriers and market distorting policies. Addressing these measures will give farmers, particularly in developing countries, new opportunities to sell their products on world markers and support their efforts to increase productivity and production.”

Production, production and more production is the intervention we all agreed to in Rome.

However, we must heed the call of the Director-General of FAO who challenged the global community to act timeously in delivering the seeds, irrigation equipment and farming machinery to farmers before it is too late to produce in the next seasons.

In South Africa, we are also looking at short, medium and long-term interventions. These range from strengthening and extending our safety nets and social security, improving the nutrition status and access to food for our children and pregnant women, and proving agriculture starter packs for households to grow their own food. Growing a vibrant agriculture sector â€" commercial and non-commercial â€" and addressing the skills shortages forms part of our medium to long-term strategies.

Anti-Poverty Programme

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, you will recall that the President announced in his State of the Nation Address the setting up of an Anti-Poverty War Room to co-ordinate a sustained and decisive Campaign that would free millions of our people who continue to suffer from the ravages of poverty.

I will officially launch the commencement of the National Campaign against Poverty in the Gariep region of the Free State on the 7th of July. The Campaign will be characterised by a door-to-door visit to poor households whose member or members receive support from the South African Social Security Agency.

Field workers of the Campaign will carry a list of all existing products and services to which individuals are entitled from national, provincial and local governments as well as state-owned entities. They will enquire whether there are any members in that poor household who do not receive the support they are entitled to. They will identify the support that must be provided to a member of members of that household from the list all government support services and inform that household about such support. They will also agree on the actions the household must take and be assisted to get the support they rightly are entitled to.

They will then convey the information to the department or agency that must undertake follow-up action. The War Rooms at the municipality, district, provincial and national levels will then monitor the implementation of anti-poverty programmes.

The uniqueness of our Campaign is that it targets poverty at household level and thus will assist us develop a plan to alleviate and eradicate poverty. If the field workers identify youth who should go back to school, which is a mechanism to fight poverty, they will advise and refer those young people to education and skills centres. If they identify someone with a potential to start a sustainable small business, they will link that person to government agencies that provide support to emerging entrepreneurs. If they identify a child that requires the attention and care of social workers, they will take that child to the nearest care facility.

Our duty as the state is to provide safety nets to poor households. But, the success of our interventions will be limited unless these households take responsibility as well. For example, by making sure that children who access grants do attend and finish school, thus improving their human capital, which is key to preventing the recurrence of poverty!

Second Economy

The Anti-Poverty Strategy points to the critical importance of employment creation. Although all the data point to a decline in joblessness in the past five years, it remains unacceptably high â€" far higher than in other middle-income countries. A central factor behind high joblessness is the continued lack of opportunities in the former Bantustan regions, where over a third of our population still lives.

To address this challenge, we have asked the Economics Cluster to focus on developing concrete proposals to expand programmes that will create jobs and sustainable livelihoods. Private sector initiatives like the two hundred (R200) million Masisizane scheme are welcome and we thank Deputy Ministers Thabethe and Botha for championing various aspects of our Jobs for Growth initiative. We are also pleased that the Minister of Water Affairs is expanding initiatives like Working for Water as a mechanism for providing livelihoods for our rural people.

What we need are more work opportunities for the able-bodied South Africans. Initiatives like the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) help us do that and they have already delivered on the 1 million job opportunities mandated by the electorate in 2004.

A recent review of the EPWP suggests that the training gained from the programme has enabled participants to access further learning and sustainable job opportunities. 70% of surveyed beneficiaries mentioned that the EPWP had a positive impact on their quality of life.

Another innovation by the Public Works Department was the commitment announced by the President in 2007 to enrol 5 000 youth in National Youth Service (NYS) using the maintenance of public buildings facility. As we exceed this target, we are now looking at facilitating permanent employment for these young people. Again, the effort and leadership of the Minster of Public Works and her colleagues in the provinces is greatly acknowledged. We have challenges but we also have opportunities that we are harvesting.

Youth Development

As we celebrate this achievement, in the context of myriad of youth development interventions that Minister Pahad will refer to, we are concerned by the numbers of those exiting school early and therefore limiting their chances of meaningful labour market participation.

The National Youth Service programme provides an opportunity to reintegrate these young people into society. The 50 000 target met last year is positive but equally represents a missed opportunity. A programme with such low entry barriers can surely achieve more. South Africa should have the biggest NYS programme in the southern hemisphere. There are many young people out there ready to serve!

Jipsa

The Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) has made a humble but I hope important contribution on the skills front; in the direct enabling of training, facilitating consensus between and amongst stakeholders, enabling action to be taken and to remove blockages that are identified by the multi-stakeholder fora. In the forefront of responding and finding solutions has been the Departments of Education and Labour and other line departments, provinces, organised labour, Setas and the private sector.

From the time it was launched in March 2006 to address primary scarce skills it has received co-operation which has led to 22 000 artisans being in the training pipeline. Of this number of 22 000 artisans, more that 18 000 was achieved through service level agreements from the sector educations and training authorities (Setas).

We thank all who also made it possible for us to achieve our Jipsa objectives especially the former chair of the Joint Working Group, comrade Gwede Mantashe. We welcome Bheki Ntshalintshali who has taken over the baton.

We thank our local and international partners who are supporting our graduate placement programme, international recruitment as well as the strengthening of our academic and research capacity.

Honourable Members,

With regards to the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), we can report that there has been modest progress to date. The National Strategic Plan exists, so do many interventions by various government departments, civil society and the private sector. We need to build the secretariat to co-ordinate all this work.

Conclusion

As the late comrade Manuel Barbarroja Pineiro noted, there is no universal law which says that present shortcomings wonâ€TMt be succeeded by future victories and successes. We are determined to intensify our work towards the building of a better life for all. And this commitment will be sustained by the next ANC government.

Experiences of the last 14 years have taught us important lessons that have shaped our ready to govern determination. It has taught us to be audacious, to be humble, to be resilient, to be more visionary and strategic, more internationalist, more caring and more democratic in our practices.

We are called upon to act together. Our people, in particular the poorest of the poor, expect nothing less from us. Writer James Baldwin said, “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor”.

Let me say this unequivocally: we are still firmly on track and our eyes remain on the ball as public representatives of this third democratic government.

I look forward to seeing you all participate in programmes that advance the development of young people of South Africa in this Youth Month and beyond!

Thank you to the great team at The Presidency and our staff including Protectors and those who assist where we live. I thank you Honourable Members for the camaraderie and support. I also want to thank you Mr President for the Opportunity to Serve!


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