NDP success depends on buy-in from all parties

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The people of South Africa have voted and what they have said is that they want the leadership of the ANC to continue for at least another five years.

In celebrating the ANC achieving 62.15 percent of the national vote, President Jacob Zuma makes the grave mistake of thinking that it means 62.15 percent of the voters voted for him.

He is wrong when he says that it is only the media or “the rich people” who are concerned about things like Nkandla; it is in fact the majority who disapprove.

But the majority also realise that the ANC is bigger than Zuma and having led the government and the country for the past 20 years the ANC has a strong role to play in leading it forward.

One major positive of the ANC retaining its place in Parliament is the stability it brings to economic planning. A plan in motion is better than a plan on paper and the ANC has one: the National Development Plan (NDP). Victory in last week’s election has secured it the right to back the plan with force. The goal of the NDP is to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. This is to be done through high levels of government intervention in the cornerstones of the economy.

For example, 10 percent of gross domestic product is to be spent on infrastructure investment, including improvements to public transport, telecommunications links and power generation and supply. Free health services are to be phased in through the implementation of the National Health Insurance, and social grants are to be expanded.

There are goals to provide better incentives for employment and the recently approved, albeit controversial, Employment Tax Incentive Act is a direct result of that.

The NDP is not favoured in all courts. The largest unions and the Economic Freedom Fighters oppose it, and the DA opposes parts of it – although overall its own economic propositions align quite closely with what the NDP plans to achieve.

The international rating agencies, such as Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, approve of the continuity. Both say that a continuation of current macro-economic policies is a positive influence on the credit rating of South Africa.

The day after the election demand increased for government bonds set to mature in 2026, signalling that the election results inspired confidence in the long-term prospects of the economy.

The NDP has many faults on the micro level of its implementation that will need to be ironed out. But it has one great virtue: it is a plan that is greater than the term of office of any president and may outlast even the reign of the ruling party. It is not a plan governed by short-term interests and for it to be implemented properly it requires strong and experienced leadership that can mobilise the vast majority of the country’s resources.

The role of the opposition is to assist the ruling party, through support and criticism, to ensure that this plan achieves its goals. Later on, if the opposition is successful, they may find themselves continuing as the leaders but for now national dedication to a single plan and consistency in its implementation is what South Africa needs to put it on stable ground.

The ultimate goal is not that a single ruling party can change the economy for the better; the best case scenario is that the economy is too robust for one party to significantly affect it.

* Pierre Heistein is the convener of UCT’s Applied Economics for Smart Decision Making course. Follow him on Twitter @PierreHeistein.


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