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Doubts and questions are appropriate when a government plainly struggling to meet existing pledges produces grand new plans that are far more ambitious.
So this newspaper sides with a chorus of “yes, but” concerns aired from the opposition benches in Parliament on Wednesday at the unveiling of the National Development Plan. Critical MPs liked the ideas and targets the government tabled, but wondered if they would be achieved.
Long-term plans are often abused, particularly in politics – an old dodge to buy time and deflect heat. And an 18-year plan such as this is far more difficult to measure than, say, a five-year one. Besides, there is an indemnity: none of the plan’s creators will be around in 2030 to answer for the outcomes.
The project – truly turning around a country – is a massive one, though, with breathtaking goals. It will take all of another 18 years, even with the best of fortunes, to create 11 million new jobs and expand the economy to almost three times the present level, just to cite two of its targets.
Troubling these plans is the fact that the basics are not in place in South Africa to make prompt headway. MP Mosiuoa Lekota drew government chortles when he queried implementation. But, theatrics aside, it was a legitimate question – how can structures unequal to the task now hope to triumph on something so much more ambitious?
They will not. Planning Minister Trevor Manuel admitted as much, saying it could not happen on the present trajectory. Without a change in pace and approach, he rightly said, the vision would remain elusive.
But first the fundamentals: To have any chance of achieving this plan, a comprehensive government overhaul is required at all levels. Short of it, the Zuma administration will be unable to stir sufficient public interest to accomplish the necessary public-private partnership to ignite it.
Visions can excite and rally people, a spirit and unity desperately needed in South Africa. But the crowds will only come when they see momentum. And this is up to the government.