To construct a better future for all and turn around our areas of under-achievement, all South Africans must work together. This is not just rhetoric. It is the conclusion we have come to based on studying dozens of national development plans and examining successful development experiences around the world.
Successful countries unite around a common vision, pull together, have a future orientation and develop effective ways to resolve differences. After two years of work, the National Planning Commission has produced a plan for all South Africans, with responsibilities for every citizen, each social partner and each organised community.
Change is not what we read in plans and policies. Change occurs when people behave differently. Change is a continuous process that results from a shift in the incentives in society that enable people to act differently.
The national development plan (NDP) focuses on raising living standards in a holistic manner, and confirms the approach that living standards are not just about income. They are about adequate nutrition, safe communities, public transport, water and sanitation, education and skills, work and the opportunity to work.
Advancing the development trajectory involves the complex interplay between public, private and community sectors; various strands of public policy coming together; the conscious efforts of individuals; the interface between local and global developments; and a significant length of time.
Neither the public sector nor the private sector can, on their own, deliver the multiple facets that comprise a decent standard of living. The private sector is responsible for about two-thirds of fixed investment and about three-quarters of employment. The private sector generates most of the revenue that funds the budget for public services. The private sector in turn, is not able to deliver public goods efficiently, nor can the responsibilities articulated in the Bill of Rights be outsourced to the private sector. To successfully impact on living standards, we require complementary inputs from the public and the private sector alike, with community-based organisations fulfilling a growing role in serving the needs of communities.
While this plan provides a high-level strategic framework to tackle poverty and inequality, it is also a detailed plan setting out targets, milestones and proposals to achieve the objectives. The commission uses a poverty line of R432 a person a month. The plan aims to reduce the proportion of people living below this level from 39% at present to zero by 2030, with the level adjusted annually for inflation.
If the plan is successful, the level of inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient should fall from 0.69 to 0.60. To achieve these objectives, we would need to create an additional 11million jobs over the next two decades. This will require average GDP growth of about 5.4% a year.
To achieve this, we will need to raise the level of fixed investment to about 30% of GDP, with about two-thirds of this coming from the private sector. We also have to make the economy more labour absorbing. Raising the performance of our education system, providing incentives to take on young workers, reducing tension in labour relations and lowering costs for small businesses are critical.
The economy also needs a more effective export engine. The commission has identified our mineral endowments, agriculture and agroprocessing, IT-enabled services, higher education, tourism and mid-skill manufacturing as areas where we have or can develop comparative advantage. Infrastructure, especially in freight and goods logistics, port capacity and energy, are critical inputs to ensure growth in these export sectors. Policy certainty is also essential.
The commission finds that when the export engine is working optimally, other domestically oriented sectors and small businesses grow and create jobs. The plan forecasts that if we are to meet our jobs target, about 90% of new jobs will be created in small businesses and in domestically oriented sectors; made possible by rising exports and productivity growth throughout the economy.
In each of 13 areas, the plan proposes specific targets and recommendations. It sets targets for the quality of education, for how much energy we would need and how much renewable energy we should build, and makes proposals on how to finance these investments. It sets targets for spatial planning, for public transport, rural development and health.
In many areas, the plan not only details what has to be achieved but also spells out how to fix the institutions we have. In education, the plan outlines a clear line of accountability for improving pupil performance. In water, the plan makes clear proposals to strengthen policy, planning, institutions and regulation.
No single government service, no matter how effective it is, can achieve sustained progress across the wide range of fronts required for development. Education plays a critical role, as do health, social protection and the vast range of public services. Working in partnership with communities, the police can help secure neighbourhoods. Public transport can help people get to work quickly and cheaply. The plan calls for a capable and developmental state, able to deliver complex services across a range of areas, in diverse locations, that interact with each other to support living standards.
When societies fail, one of the first signs is that the rich opt out. We already see signs of this with the more affluent devolving themselves of the need for public services. They employ private security, send their children to private schools, use private healthcare, never need public transport, and have generators so they are not entirely dependent on the electricity grid.
These are also the most empowered and articulate members of communities, who then disengage themselves from community responsibility. The voice of the community is thereby diminished.
What then happens is that public services deteriorate because it is only the poor who use them. The elites, including politicians and public servants, opt out; leaving an uncaring, under-resourced and overburdened public sector. The consequence is growing inequality, higher walls, more isolated communities and greater indifference. This is not a sustainable solution.
If South Africa is to be successful, and take its place as a globally competitive economy, it will have to fix the areas of under-performance. While government can play a special — and necessarily a leading — role, to fix what is wrong requires everyone’s support.
The NDP provides a framework to build a better future. It is a bold plan to tackle poverty and inequality and in so doing, make South Africa a better place for all, rich and poor. The plan provides an opportunity to reenergise the country, to work together for a common purpose.
There is a risk that if we squander this opportunity, South Africa will continue to stumble along, left behind in a dynamic and growing world. On the present trajectory, we will not meet the legitimate expectations of South Africans. Without urgent and focused change, there is a real risk that the negatives will overwhelm the capacity of the country; fuelling populism and ethnic politics.
South Africa does have the ability to change. We have demonstrated it before. When we unite, we can achieve miracles. The NDP is a call to action to all South Africans. It’s our future — make it work.