In one respect at least, the government’s latest economic plan is a vast improvement on its most famous predecessor: at 38 pages, the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan published earlier this month is only about one twentieth of the length of the National Development Plan (NDP) adopted in 2012.
It’s also more modest, as befits lockdown rules and the country’s more straitened circumstances: there is, for example, no clarion call for running, cycling, or playing team games on the second Saturday of every month. The reconstruction and recovery plan also has touches of irony: it promises to “fast-track” this and “kick-start” that, presumably in the hopes that the comrades and cadres, having honed these skills in Covid-19 procurement, will now be able to apply them to economic reform.
Irony aside, the plan also has plenty for connoisseurs of fantasy: reinforcing an ethical culture, delivering “quick wins”, removing red tape, increasing the level of investment by the private sector, retrofitting public buildings in pursuit of the country’s green agenda, eliminating wasteful expenditure, and getting everyone to pay electricity bills and traffic fines.
There’s more: implementation of the plan will be “cascaded” to provinces and districts, while “gender mainstreaming” will apply to all “key value chains”. As for our “greener future”, we will get there via a “just transition” (whatever that may be) and it will include “retrofitting the ageing power stations in Mpumalanga with solar power”.
Speaking about his plan in Parliament last week, Cyril Ramaphosa called on everyone to “unite behind this common vision for our recovery”. That, of course, is what just about everyone (except the Institute of Race Relations) did with the NDP, which was still a failure, as the IRR warned it would be.
That plan was full of fantasy, but it did at least contain a warning that the country’s “developmental agenda could fail because the state is incapable of implementing it”. So now, eight years later, what else is new?