The DA welcomes the release of the National Planning Commission (NPC) National Development Plan. We have now had time to study it, and agree with many of its key findings and proposed solutions.
The release of the plan coincides with the diagnostic phase of the DA's own policy review: the 8% Growth Project.
We believe the NDP points to a growing consensus amongst a growing number of people at the non-racial, moderate centre of South African politics. This emerging consensus on the fundamental issues facing South Africa today is an exciting and significant development.
Minister Trevor Manuel and the 25-strong team of commissioners represent a wealth of experience and expertise. It is encouraging that, in appointing the commissioners to this important advisory body, excellence was valued above partisan politics. The document itself is impressive. A full 444 pages, it covers a broad range of themes and issues, from the economy to community safety, social security to the fight against corruption. In all these areas the NDP outlines its interpretation of the fundamental challenges facing our country, based on empirical research and a thorough understanding of the issues, and offers a number of broad policy proposals. In the context of rising populism and racial extremism within some quarters, as well as the policy paralysis created by divisions within the ruling party, the clarity, honesty and intellectual integrity of the NDP is a breath of fresh air.
What we are seeing is an emerging coalescence of progressive South Africans who want to see this country succeed. There is growing policy coherence between those determined to defend the values of the Constitution, across a range of political parties.
The moderate, non-racial centre understands the cogency of race in our society, but does not want it to determine our future as it defined our past. It wants to put a stop to corruption and wholesale looting by a crony elite.
Above all, it wants a vibrant and growing economy that can create jobs and an education system that ensures people have the skills to use these opportunities. This is the only sustainable pathway out of poverty.
Many of the NDP proposals will, however, face stiff internal opposition from factions in the ruling party, its youth wing and its alliance partners. Unless the NDP can overcome this internal resistance, and the President display the necessary political will, the plan will be doomed to fail, as have many before it.
‘THE NEW NORMAL'?
The adoption of the DA's vocabulary throughout the NDP is striking. It borrows much of the same analytical framework that underpins our own political philosophy - the ‘open, opportunity society for all.'
Unlike other government policy documents that encourage a sense of victimhood and dependency, the NDP emphasises the role that active, empowered citizens can play in shaping their own destiny. There is an implicit understanding that rights come with responsibilities.
The document is also largely forward-looking. It acknowledges the wrongs of the past, and seeks to redress them, but does not dwell on them as an excuse for inaction in the present. It focuses on uniting people towards a shared vision, rather than dividing them by dwelling in a fractured and tragic past.
Gone too is the statist approach to job creation and poverty reduction. The authors of the policy, like the DA, understand that creating an enabling environment for growth is the only sustainable way to create jobs and lift people out of poverty. The document skirts around the so-called "developmental state", the consistent theme of the Ministry of Economic Development.
Instead, the NDP promotes a ‘virtuous cycle' of growth and development that focuses on expanding opportunities for all, creating an inclusive economy and improving state capacity. These ideas underpin the DA's 8% Growth Project diagnostic assessment. It is clear that, as this kind of thinking gains traction among more and more people across the country, and as they increasingly choose the politics of prosperity over the politics of scarcity, the philosophy of the Open, Opportunity Society for All is becoming ‘the new normal'. This development is a watershed for South Africa.
In sum, the key concepts of the Open, Opportunity Society for All included in the NDP toolkit, include:
• Pursuing growth and prosperity as the best way to fight poverty and unemployment
• Involving individuals and communities in their own development
• Requiring the state to fulfil extend opportunities to all through excellent education and other essential services
• Creating the right conditions for investment and job creation that drive a virtuous cycle of sustained development
• Moving from passive to active citizenry
• Developing people's own capacity to pursue lives they value
Underpinning both the DA 8% Growth Project and the NDP is an evidence-based approach to policy, one that places a particular emphasis on empirically and statistically grounded research. This contrasts with the ideology-driven policy-making that characterises much of the current national administration, and particularly those departments associated closely with the ANC's alliance partners. It is this approach that prevents South Africa from moving forward and the NDP points to a pathway out of this stalemate.
UNDERSTANDING THE NDP's LIMITATIONS
Before providing an overview of the DA's interpretation of the NDP, it is important to understand the mandate and remit of the National Planning Commission itself. Located in the Presidency, and headed by the Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, Trevor Manuel, the NPC's primary function is an advisory one. Its mandate is:
‘To take a broad, cross-cutting, independent and critical view of South Africa, to help define the South Africa we seek to achieve in 20 years' time and to map out a path to achieve those objectives. The commission is expected to put forward solid research, sound evidence and clear recommendations for government.'
The NPC is not an alternative Cabinet. It does not formulate government policy and its recommendations do not bind the President or his Ministers to any particular policy direction. The purpose of the NPC is to draw on expert opinion and consult with stakeholders in order to craft a vision and a set of recommendations that the government may or may not use.
The DA understands these limitations, and our interpretation of the NDP has been shaped accordingly. Costing of the plan's various proposals, furthermore, is not included in the NDP document itself, and our response does not go into detail regarding their budgetary implications.
The DA appreciates the power of ideas, however, and we hope that the President will pay due attention to the many sound recommendations contained in the Commission's proposals.
INTERPRETING THE PROPOSALS
The NDP consists of 15 chapters, organised around 10 core themes. In this section we provide a brief overview of the DA's response to the proposals and recommendations listed under each. The core themes addressed in the NDP are:
• Creating jobs and opportunities
• Expanding infrastructure
• Transitioning to a low-carbon economy
• Developing urban and rural spaces
• Improving education and training
• Providing quality healthcare
• Building a capable state
• Fighting corruption and enhancing accountability
• Building safer communities
• Uniting society and the nation
Creating jobs and expanding opportunities
The NDP identifies the elimination of poverty and a reduction in inequality as the two main objectives of economic policy. The DA agrees that the best strategy to reduce poverty and inequality is to tackle our unemployment crisis. And we agree that jobs are created through an inclusive economic growth trajectory which expands opportunities for all.
We are not convinced, however, that positioning these two objectives as our central goals represents the simplest, most effective method of designing economic policy. Indeed, a 100% focus on leftist-style redistribution, for example, would achieve both of these objectives in the short term, but would ultimately take South Africa backwards. And the government's stated objective of targeting "job creation" as set out in the New Growth Path document, and in President Zuma's State of the Nation address, will also create policy muddles and unintended consequences.
For example, in the above-mentioned address the President called on all of his departments to report back to him on the number of jobs they have created. This reverses the roles of the public and private sectors and is not the road to sustainable job creation.
Instead, the NDP should be targeting an economic growth rate high enough to ensure that the growth is not "jobless". By doing so, it will currently and simply align the roles of the public and private sectors and lead to the inevitable outcomes of reduced unemployment, poverty and inequality.
That said, the NDP's recommendations which focus on labour-absorbing export industries, enhancing innovation, building on our competitive advantages, reducing regulatory burdens, and developing our skills base are all welcomed. Indeed, this is the strategic policy thrust we are pursuing where we govern.
It is particularly encouraging that the NDP unequivocally supports the policy of a youth wage subsidy, which the DA has long championed.
However, we feel that the NDP could have come out more strongly in favour of greater flexibility in the labour market and against the extension of wage bargaining agreements. We also take issue with the analysis that sectors like mining and management services are "good for growth but not good for jobs".
In Australia, for example, the mining boom led directly to increased growth and job creation. And financial hubs like Malaysia and Hong Kong have shown that economic growth derived from high skill services can boost whole economies, including employment prospects in non-related sectors.
Indeed, international experience shows that rapid, and sustained, growth in GDP is a precondition for job creation. The majority of middle-income developing countries with economic growth rates of 8% or more - the 8% club - saw a decline in unemployment between 2009 and 2010. With GDP growth at 8.2%, Turkey saw unemployment decline from 14.1% to 12%. Brazil grew at 7.5% and saw unemployment decline from 8.1% to 6.7%.
Growth needs to be at the heart of any plan to create jobs and expand opportunities.
There is no doubt that South Africa's poor and crumbling infrastructure is a key factor holding back the expansion of the economy. Investment in new infrastructure, as well as maintenance, has been far from sufficient. We concur, for example, with the frank and open assessment of the administrative bottlenecks and coordination failures that hamper the upgrading of human settlements. We agree that a cheaper, more efficient ICT infrastructure is necessary for our country's future development.
The specific infrastructure development proposals are, in general, all in line with DA infrastructure priorities and include: upgrading informal settlements, promoting a Durban-Gauteng freight corridor, upgrading transport infrastructure and systems, the development of new water schemes, the construction of infrastructure to import liquefied natural gas, and the vigorous promotion of renewable energy sources.
Transition to a low carbon economy
The resource-intensive character of our economy and our over-reliance on high carbon-emitting energy sources is clearly unsustainable. And so the DA strongly supports the inclusion of carbon reduction as one of the nine priority areas considered in the NDP.
The plan's proposal for the promotion of a carbon-budgeting approach that links social and economic considerations to carbon reduction targets is promising, as is the call to ease the regulatory burden faced by renewable energy initiatives and independent power providers.
However, we would like to have seen more on economic incentives to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. Recommendations that set targets for a specific number of solar water heaters, or impose yet more onerous planning and building restrictions, for instance, will have little positive effect if they are not accompanied by behavioural change on the part of producers and consumers.
Developing rural and urban spaces
The chapter concerned with developing an inclusive rural economy is one of the weakest in the NDP. The underlying thrust that people living in communities in rural areas should have greater opportunities to participate in the economic life of the country is correct, as is the call for an effective and sustainable land reform process to remedy the continuing historical legacies of dispossession and exploitation. Vague recommendations to help people ‘take advantage of economic opportunities' and to ‘develop' small industries in rural areas do not appear to take into account market realities that have seen the decline of the agricultural sector in recent years. Recommendations regarding increasing the density liveability of urban spaces, and the need for improved public transport to better connect people with opportunities in urban areas are, however, broadly welcomed.
Improving education and training
Providing learners and graduates with the skills they need to compete in the global knowledge economy is perhaps the single most effective weapon in the fight against poverty and unemployment. It is encouraging, then, that the chapter in the NDP concerned with education and training very closely aligns with DA thinking.
Indeed, many of the NDP's education proposals are already being implemented where the DA governs in the Western Cape. We agree that issues such as early childhood development and nutrition, improving school management, developing school infrastructure and holding principals accountable for learner performance are key things we need to get right if we are to improve education quality in our poorest communities, though we believe the NDP's analysis of the problem could have been more specific, and detailed.
The DA supports the NDP's calls to dramatically expand the further education and training sector, support excellence in higher education, and improve links with the private sector to promote research and development.
Providing quality healthcare
The DA agrees that good health is a prerequisite for an active, fulfilling and productive life and all South Africans deserve to be able to access quality healthcare. The NDP's assessment that our country's healthcare system is in crisis, in large part due to systemic management failure, is correct. We also agree that greater emphasis needs to be placed on preventative, primary, and district-level healthcare provision.
The DA does, however, differ with the NDP on its endorsement of the National Health Insurance system, which we believe would be unworkable given current financial and capacity constraints, and which would cause untold harm to the long-term stability of the fiscus and the country's healthcare system in general.
Building a capable state
The NDP rightly points out that a capable state is an essential component of any development plan. Development cannot ‘happen' without key state inputs in areas such as education, healthcare, infrastructure investment, safety and security, and an enabling regulatory regime. It is in many of these areas that the public service is failing as a consequence of incompetence, corruption and political interference.
The NDP is refreshingly frank about the consequences of political interference in the public service and state-owned enterprises, but we feel it does not go far enough in unpacking the conscious and systematic domination of state institutions by the ruling party through its policy of ‘cadre deployment'.
The recommendations that heads of department report to an administrative head of the civil service, that a graduate recruitment programme and a skills development strategy be introduced, that the Public Service Commission be given greater monitoring powers regarding appointments and that a purely administrative approach be adopted for lower-level appointments are all worthy of further consideration. They are broadly in line with the DA's vision of a more accountable and professional civil service.
Proposals that affect the intergovernmental system itself should be approached with caution, with due heed given to the Constitutionally enshrined roles of provincial and local government. However, the NDP's call for greater clarification regarding roles and responsibilities in areas such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity and public transport would, we believe, improve service delivery.
Fighting corruption and enhancing accountability
The NDP's position that political will is essential in the fight against corruption is spot on. Practical problems such as a lack of funds and institutional capacity at key corruption-fighting institutions such as the Public Protector and Special Investigative Unit, we agree, need to be fixed. So do attitudes that seek to protect the politically connected few to the ultimate detriment of faith in our public institutions. We also support the NDP proposals that specialised teams of prosecutors and special courts handle corruption cases, that certain restrictions be placed on the business activities of public servants and that individuals be make liable if found guilty of corruption.
However, the DA disagrees with the suggestion that all large and long-term tenders be centralised as this will likely result in considerable inefficiencies, and may simply centralise and entrench corruption. There is nothing in the history of our democracy that suggests that centralisation has improved delivery, efficiency or the prudent use of resources.
Building safer communities
The DA agrees that South Africa's very high levels of crime and violence, which rank among the worst in the world, are a scourge on our society that limits the freedom of individuals to pursue their personal goals and participate in the economic and social life of the country.
Dramatically improving the effectiveness of our country's criminal justice system and enhancing professionalism in the SAPS are, we agree, crucial elements in the fight against crime. The DA has long campaigned against the militarisation of the police and we welcome the NDP's finding that this process has likely been a key factor contributing to increased violence and brutality in the service, and that a reversal of this policy is necessary to return the SAPS to an accountable, civilian service.
We broadly endorse the proposals recommending an integrated approach to building safe communities, which address the underlying causes of criminality. We also support recommendations encouraging greater participation by communities and civil society organisations in securing public safety. Indeed, this "whole of society" approach to community safety is already being implemented where the DA governs in the Western Cape.
Uniting society and the nation
South Africa remains a divided society, scarred by our history of racial disenfranchisement, segregation and exploitation. Very real socio-economic inequalities persist to this day. Overcoming our past is no easy task. The DA agrees with the NDP's observation that achieving a sense of common citizenship and ‘belonging' is a complex but important process. It involves a range of factors, often subjective in nature, that go beyond the control of the government.
We concur with the underlying rationale of the chapter, and support the proposal that policies such as BEE need to be rethought to broaden access to opportunities rather than provide a fig-leaf for cadre deployment and cronyism. However, the NDP does not adequately address the highly problematic strategy the current ruling party has adopted to consciously re-racialise political discourse in South Africa by using the ‘race card' to silence political opponents and discourage dissent.
A number of key proposals in the NDP may be new to the national government, but they are not new to the DA. In fact, they are already being implemented in the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town and other DA-led administrations throughout the country.
Many of these policy initiatives are ideas whose time has come. We are able to implement them because we are unencumbered by vested interests that stand in the way of progress. We would never allow our political allies to hold us, and the citizens we serve, to ransom in the way that Cosatu and the SACP do in relation to the ANC.
Because we don't suffer this policy paralysis, we have been free to implement a number of policy initiatives proposed in the NDP already. A selection of these is presented below, with reference to a corresponding NDP policy proposal.
NDP Proposal: Improve the skills base
Work and Skills Project: The DA-run Provincial Administration is running a pilot project aimed at providing unemployed youth, aged 18 to 35 years with a Matric or equivalent qualification, the opportunity to engage in a 12-month work experience programme. Under the programme the Department of Economic Development and Tourism provides the youth with a subsidy of R1000 for twelve months. The Province's Skills Development Forum seeks to meet the demand for skills in key sectors of the economy, with special courses to develop these skills in partnership with the region's four leading tertiary institutions.
Maths and Science Schools: The Western Cape Education Department runs a number of specialised secondary schools that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM Centres). These schools feature highly trained teachers and specialist facilities such as computer laboratories, mathematics study rooms, physics and chemistry laboratories and technology centres. These schools give learners the competitive skills they need to compete in the job market, or lay the foundation for subsequent higher education and training.
NDP Proposal: Improve teacher accountability and performance
WCED Initiatives: The Western Cape Education Department has a number of programmes in place that track, evaluate, incentivise and improve the performance of school teachers and principals. First, the WCED has introduced performance contracts for principals and deputy principals. These agreements ultimately link performance assessment to the quality of learner outcomes at a given school. Second, to ensure the highest possible standard of marking in the National Senior Certificate Examinations, and that all Western Cape markers are both competent and experienced in their subject fields, the WCED put in place strict requirements for the selection of markers. Third, the WCED has implemented a comprehensive programme of training workshops during school holidays to improve teachers' literacy and numeracy teaching skills. These programmes have proved highly successful, with attendance rates of over 90%.
NDP Proposal: Reduce regulatory burdens
Red Tape to Red Carpet: The DA administration in the Western Cape has launched a comprehensive policy initiative called ‘Red Tape to Red Carpet' which identifies and removes unnecessary red tape in the province. On the one hand, it is designed to significantly reduce legislation, regulations, permits, licences and standards (and the costs thereof) that present an unnecessary hindrance to enterprise activity and growth. On the other, it simplifies and streamlines the functioning of government by making bureaucratic procedures and reporting more efficient, with a special focus on reducing the time it takes to complete mandatory processes.
NDP Proposal: Build community participation in community safety
CeaseFire Project: The DA provincial administration and City of Cape Town are working together to implement a pilot project in Hanover Park called CeaseFire that aims to stop gang violence and related violent crime through conflict mediation, street-level outreach, and changing overall community norms and behaviour. It forms part of the City's Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) initiative, which addresses the underlying causes of violence through infrastructure upgrades, social programmes, social crime prevention, job creation, training and engagement through partnerships with the community.
The "whole of society model" is working well in a range of partnership programmes such as the City Partnership between the City of Cape Town, the business community and the police, which has reduced crime by almost 90% in the City centre. This approach is being rolled out in several other areas, with similar success.
The VPUU approach in Harare, Khayelitsha, has also seen a significant reduction in the crime rate, particularly murder.
NDP Proposal: Tackle the societal attitudes that contribute to corruption
‘No Frills' Ministerial Handbook: In May 2011 the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet formally adopted a new ‘no frills' ministerial handbook that dramatically cuts back on expenses for MECs in the province and imposes significantly tighter rules and regulations regarding benefits and business interests as compared to their national counterparts. Spending on luxury vehicles for ministers, hotel stays, flights and car hire will be cut back dramatically in the Western Cape, or eliminated entirely. This is consistent with the DA's view that public money should be utilised to maximise benefit for the good of all, not the politically connected few.
Business Interests of Employees Act: In December 2010 the DA administration in the Western Cape passed the Business Interests of Employees Act, which places significant restrictions on officials doing business with the provincial government. The Act prohibits government employees and their families from directly or indirectly holding more than 5% of shares, stock, membership or other interests in an entity that does business with the provincial government, unless approval is given by the relevant Minister in accordance with certain criteria set out in the Bill. Moreover, it stipulates that entities providing goods or services to the province must provide an affidavit disclosing whether or not it is owned or part-owned by employees of the Western Cape government, and requires that all provincial officials disclose their business interests at prescribed intervals, in the same way that members of Cabinet already do. NDP Proposal: Introduce a graduate recruitment programme in the public service Environmental Internships: The City of Cape Town offers 25 12-month paid internships for recent graduates in its environmental, spatial planning, land use management and transport divisions for the period March 2012 to February 2013. Each intern is placed with a specific city employee who manages and mentors the intern for a period of twelve months while their professional skills and subject knowledge are enhanced through a dedicated programme of capacity-building and training workshops. Interns receive a stipend of R 4000 per month in addition to certain employment benefits during their period with the city.
Internships in Provincial Departments: The Western Cape Government offers a range of internship programmes across provincial departments where graduates are given an opportunity to develop their skills, experience and knowledge within the public service. Some of these interns are also absorbed into permanent positions once they have completed their internships. The Western Cape Government employed just over 700 interns during 2011 across eleven provincial departments.
NDP Proposal: Provide reliable and affordable public transport MyCiti Bus Expansion: The City of Cape Town has in place advanced-stage plans to extend its highly successful MyCiti bus service to the city's Metro South East, an area which includes Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain. New MyCiTi services are also planned for transport corridors between the Metro South East and the southern, northern and West Coast suburbs, where there is currently high passenger demand but no rail service. The extension of the MyCiti bus network to these areas will go a long way to better connecting people with job opportunities, and building an inclusive economy in the city.
NDP Proposal: Moving jobs and investment towards dense townships
Atlantis Green Technology Cluster: The City of Cape Town and the Provincial government are currently facilitating the development of a green technology manufacturing cluster in Atlantis, a poor area of the city that was particularly hard hit during the recent economic downturn. As part of this process, the City's Property Management Department will facilitate the location of ‘green' industry manufacturers on City-owned land in Atlantis at highly competitive rentals. Land in Atlantis will only be allocated if applicants meet the criteria for green industry manufacturing, which may also include services within the green industry value chain.
The Western Cape Government has also provided a number of potential investors with detailed information about the land and the industrial investment incentives available. It is also currently negotiating with a key anchor investor, LM Wind Power, to establish a wind blade factory, which if successful will provide at least 300 direct jobs, as well as an associated 300 to 400 jobs in the supply chain. It is estimated that the initiative has the potential to create 2200 jobs, inject R 3 billion into the Western Cape economy and significantly revitalise the area for Atlantis residents.
Co-operatives in Khayelitsha: The Western Cape Government employed two women- owned co-operatives in Khayelitsha to produce 3000 branded bags that were distributed to visitors and guests of the Kirstenbosch-South Africa Chelsea Flower exhibit in London in May. The bags showcased the work done by these co-operatives to overseas investors resulting in further orders for both co-ops and new jobs opportunities in the area.
NDP Proposal: Ensure affordable, widely available broadband
Cape Town Broadband Network: The City of Cape Town has in place a ground-breaking project that aims to equip the city with a comprehensive municipal-owned optic fibre network. The first phase of the project, which involved a R 125 million capital investment and the installation of 24 000 km of optic fibre running through 230 km of cable went live in May 2010. Its principal objectives are to improve the bandwidth available to the city at an affordable cost, whilst also encouraging local economic development, partly through allowing telecommunications companies to make use of spare infrastructure capacity. When completed, this ICT infrastructure, which is of carrier-class standard, will make Cape Town one of the most wired cities in Africa.
Telecommunications Infrastructure Project: The Western Cape Government has embarked on a telecommunications infrastructure project as part of its Cape Catalyst initiative. This project will include the development of a continental West Coast broadband cable and aims to provide cheaper broadband that creates opportunities for citizens and the business sector. Under this project the provincial government plans to (a) connect all government offices and facilities; (b) to integrate and extend existing public ICT and internet facility infrastructure; (c) use schools, community centres and clinics as hotspots to extend service provisions to households; (d) connect key economic nodes through telecommunications infrastructure; and (e) reduce the cost of international connectivity to targeted industries in the Western Cape.
NDP Proposal: Upgrade urban and rural spaces
Cape Town Central City Regeneration Programme: The Western Cape Government has set aside R400 million over the next three years for inner-City regeneration projects that will unlock Cape Town's potential to attract major investment. This regeneration project will focus on leveraging state-owned assets for private development in an effort to make Cape Town's economy more competitive, to drive economic growth and job creation within the city, to make our environment greener and friendlier and our communities better integrated.
NDP Proposal: Address social determinants of health
Western Cape Liquor Act: In 2009 the Western Cape passed legislation widely viewed as the toughest alcohol law in the country. It seeks to regulate the provincial liquor supply in a manner that still balances the rights of the relevant liquor sector holders, the priorities of economic growth and the rights of the public to a clean, safe and healthy environment. It does this by creating a framework for establishing a Provincial Liquor Authority, by-laws to be passed that seek to control drinking places in residential areas, cracking down on illegal distributors as well as reducing trading hours of liquor outlets and drinking places. The new Provincial Liquor Authority will be established by 1 April 2012 and the Act will be rolled out incrementally
Western Cape Substance Abuse Plan: In 2010, the Western Cape Government launched one of the most comprehensive plans in the country to reduce drug and alcohol related harms in the province. It focuses on maximising the percentage of citizens who are successfully prevented from harmfully using alcohol and drugs, or rehabilitated from harmful drug and alcohol use, and aims to address the crisis in two ways: (a) by placing a greater emphasis on prevention by targeting young people with psychosocial support, awareness and education initiatives and (b) by introducing a range of targeted treatment and other intervention programmes for people already addicted to alcohol and drugs. The plan has been highly successful, including significant increases in the number of subsidised spaces in drug treatment programmes and treatment programmes funded by the Department of Social Development; an increased number of patients receiving aftercare and recovery services once they have left treatment (from 500 (in 2009/2010) to 2460); and partnerships with major universities in the province.
8% GROWTH PROJECT
The DA recently launched the first phase of the 8% Growth Project - a diagnostic assessment that identifies twelve sets of growth impediments that need to be addressed if South Africa is to achieve an economic growth rate of 8%, the only real solution to creating jobs and eradicating poverty. The second phase of the project - the ‘solutions document' - is currently underway. Through vigorous research and consultation with stakeholders and renowned experts from South Africa and around the world, the DA will develop a comprehensive set of proposals that will set out what needs to done to achieve 8% growth in GDP. How will it be different from the plan presented by the National Planning Commission?
While there are many points of agreement between the NDP proposals and DA thinking, there are also a number of important differences. These have to do with the scope of the 8% Growth Project versus that of the NDP; the mandate and remit of the two policy processes; and crucially, the political realities facing their implementation. First, the NDP is a very broad-ranging document. It outlines the NPC's vision of an ideal South African society, and offers a number of general policy proposals and recommendations to get us there. The 8% Growth Project, on the other hand, is a targeted initiative. It focuses on achieving rapid and sustained economic growth with a view to creating prosperity and jobs, and halving poverty. Its policy solutions, although still in the development phase, will be specific and detailed.
Second, the NDP and the 8% Growth Project have very different mandates. As explained earlier in this document, the NPC's role is primarily advisory - a high-profile think-tank located in the Presidency. It does not formulate government policy. The 8% Growth Project on the other hand is tasked with generating policy solutions that, if endorsed by the party, will become government policy where the DA governs, as well as the DA's policy platform for the 2014 national elections.
Third, the 8% Growth Project puts accelerated economic growth as the number one objective of economic policy. It posits that sustainably raising economic growth to 8% per annum is the simplest and best way to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Fourth, the NDP and the 8% Growth Project face very different political realities. Many of the NDP proposals will face stiff internal opposition from factions in the ruling party, including its youth wing and its alliance partners -- particularly in policy areas such as labour market reform and accountability in the public service.
The 8% Growth Project, on the other hand carries no such ideological baggage. While our members may differ on details, we are of one mind when it comes to the goal of an open, opportunity society for all that the 8% Growth Project will be the vehicle to get us there.
The DA welcomes the NPC's National Development Plan. We agree with many of its key findings and proposed solutions, with some reservations. We believe it points to a growing consensus amongst progressive South Africans in all parties on the issues of fundamental importance facing South Africa today. We believe it will be catalytic in the realignment of South African politics.
There are two major problems with the NDP. The first is that, while it recognises the importance of trade-offs in policy-making, it does not take into account the complex cost implications of many of its proposals. It is one thing to write a plan, and quite another to translate it into transversal government action and line-items in a budget. In the absence of strong determination and political will, this translation from good ideas into real policy won't happen.
The second is that it will face push-back from the ANC's alliance partners who will disagree fundamentally with the ideological thrust of the document. It will also experience considerable opposition from the Department of Economic Development, whose New Growth Path document presents its economic vision for South Africa, and the Department of Trade and Industry, whose Industrial Development Action Plan 2 represents its inter-departmental economic policy co-ordination effort. In many areas these plans work against each other, rather than together.
Unless the NPC can overcome this internal resistance, the NDP will be still-born.
Given the recent history of policy initiatives that never got off the ground because of this (the youth wage subsidy announced by the President in 2010 is a case in point) the implementation of the NDP is unlikely.
The DA's 8% growth project, which differs in scope and mandate, will not face the same problems. Furthermore, it carries with it the advantage of a single-minded pursuit of job creation through rapid economic growth.
While the objectives of the NDP are being stymied by the ANC's alliance partners, the DA will continue with its discussions on how to achieve 8% growth when we form the core of an alternative national government in the near future. We will continue implementing many of the NPC's proposals in the places we govern.
In other words: while the ANC is still talking about delivering a better life for all, the DA will be making it happen in the municipalities and in the province we govern. And when we win a national election and begin implementing our 8% growth project, the ANC will still be talking.
Issued by the Democratic Alliance, November 23 2011
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter