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It is the first time in hundreds of years that SA has an NDP which is an embodiment of the collective aspirations of the entire nation, says Kuseni Dlamini.
Johannesburg - The lack of consensus on the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is at the core of the problems facing South Africa. What needs to be done to build momentum around the NDP and get South Africa working and growing in ways that create jobs for all?
Tripartite alliance leaders need to actively and visibly drive the implementation agenda in concert with leaders from business, civil society and the opposition parties. For the NDP and South Africa to succeed, it is vital that leaders focus on and emphasise the areas of convergence.
Countries that succeed in the competitive battles of the 21st century focus more on what unites than what divides them. South African leaders and citizens alike can and must rally around aspects of the NDP that can grow and expand the economy and society for generations.
We need to inspire confidence, trust and unity around a tangible and compelling sense of common purpose in pursuit of a common and shared vision of the future for South Africa.
Lest we forget, it is the first time in hundreds of years that South Africa has an NDP which is an embodiment of the collective aspirations of the entire nation.
It is, like all plans of this sort elsewhere in the world, imperfect. But it is a good starting point to rally a hitherto deeply divided nation around a common national strategic agenda. We must make it work. We can make it work. It would be good for South Africa to have an NDP that delivers prosperity and inclusive job-rich high growth and development on a sustained basis for current and future generations.
Implementing the parts that are fully agreed by all stakeholders would be a good starting point. It would build confidence. It would reveal the art of the possible. The NDP is a contested terrain. It will always be. It must be. Contestation is good. So long as it is not destructive.
Constructive contestation and engagement with the NDP is what South Africa requires. Vibrant and robust debate on the principles underpinning policy formulation should be encouraged and tolerated to the extent that it enriches policy outcomes and results in broad-based buy-in and ownership of the NDP.
As the landscape changes, so must our strategies and tactics to achieve the desired end in a more efficient and effective way. No plan designed to address complex socio-economic challenges which are, by their very nature, always in flux, can ever be perfect. The NDP is no exception. To halt the implementation of the NDP because this or that party differs with this or that chapter or line would be as unhelpful as it would be undesirable.
It is crucial for all parties and stakeholders in society to fully commit and actively work together in implementing the NDP. Consensus is required on the areas on which there is still disagreement.
South Africa needs a big push for workable and efficacious solutions to our problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality, so that we can turn them around for generations.
We have what it takes. What is missing is the will and commitment by our leaders to do what is required to confront our socio-economic problems and challenges head-on. That is as unacceptable as it is unhelpful.
Leaders should stop dithering while unemployment grows and economic growth remains pedestrian. We can’t afford that.
A decisive approach to implementing the NDP and other solutions to our new and old problems is what is required.
This may turn out to be the most prudent and realistic approach. Bickering and unhelpful finger-pointing won’t create even one job or help to solve poverty and inequalities.
It should be attainable in the medium to long term or as we build trust and confidence.
Those who question certain aspects of the NDP should not be ostracised. Their views need to be given serious consideration and actively and fully be given space. In turn they should also be open to persuasion, through the force of fact-based arguments and logic, by those supportive of the NDP in its current form.
What is encouraging is that there are no differences on what the end should be. The differences are largely around the means to the end. That is a good starting point.
There is no need for dogmatism. To achieve consensus requires all players to be willing to compromise on the means to achieve the agreed end for South Africa.
The recent tripartite alliance economic summit noted the areas where there is already full agreement while also highlighting the need to seek common ground on the areas where there are disagreements.
There is a need for visible leadership to execute the core parts of the NDP in ways that unlock prosperity for generations. South Africa needs to walk the talk and unleash the forces that can unlock the country’s full potential to be a globally competitive winning nation, as indeed it can and must be.
The recent results of the World Economic Forum global competitiveness report indicating that Mauritius and Botswana have stolen the march on us should be a wake-up call on the one hand and a source of inspiration on the other, to improve our global competitiveness ranking.
We need to set national key performance objectives to improve our global competitiveness ranking by a number of points/places on the global league table and monitor and measure our performance on a consistent basis.
Business, government, labour, civil society and other key sectors of society must commit to delivering on specific agreed key performance areas to advance the country’s global competitiveness and be held accountable for delivering their part of what is required to make South Africa a globally competitive and winning nation.
Global competitiveness has to be one of the key national strategic priorities that all South Africans should wake up and drive with vigour on a daily basis. It is too important and complex to be left to the government alone.
* Kuseni Dlamini is a member of the national council of the SA Institute of International Affairs.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.