Johannesburg - Cut out this page and seal it in a file marked “2019”. In five years’ time, when considering how to vote in the elections, open the file and go to http://www.thepresidency-dpme.gov.za.
If the department lives up to its word, you will be able to click on a link called “programme of action” and compare all the targets the government has set itself for the next five years with what has actually been achieved. You will be able to see which minister was supposed to be responsible for each target and judge how well they have done.
Instead of relying on the media or politicians to rate their performance, you can do it yourself, based on the promises they made in performance agreements they will soon be signing with President Jacob Zuma.
That is the theory set out in the government’s medium-term strategic framework (MTSF), or five-year action plan, released by Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe this week.
It is the practical counterpart to the vision statement of the National Development Plan, intended to translate the broad goals of that document into concrete steps and measurable outcomes.
It contains an impressive set of measurable targets – the ones you may check up on in 2019 – which Radebe said had been vetted by his department for alignment with the NDP. With the help of the Treasury, his department had checked that these programmes could be funded within the spending ceiling the government has already committed to for the next few years.
The cabinet would receive progress reports on each of the outcomes reflected in the MTSF and these would be made public on the website, Radebe said. The MTSF would also be the basis for the performance agreements of ministers, who would make sure the objectives were “cascaded down” to management level in their departments.
This marks a step forward from the outcomes-based approach of the previous administration under Zuma – when the public were told ministers had signed such agreements but were not privy to the contents, or the level of success.
Potentially, it paves the way for the public to be more involved in assessing the extent to which the government lives up to its promises, beyond the subjective level of their own experience.
Some of the targets for 2019 include 5 percent economic growth, a reduction in unemployment from the current 25.2 percent (based on the formal definition) to 14 percent, an increase in average life expectancy from 60 to 63 years, acquiring and allocating 2 million hectares of strategically located land for land reform and increasing the contribution of tourism revenue to the economy to more than R37 billion by 2017.
While critics of the NDP and opposition parties are sceptical about the government’s commitment to it have highlighted contradictions with two other key planks of government policy – the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan (Ipap) – the MTSF positions them as intrinsic components of the overall vision.
Under Outcome 4: decent employment through inclusive economic growth, the MTSF says employment intensive programmes and initiatives, especially those favouring youth and women, will receive “top priority”. Achieving this will depend “crucially” on: “Driving growth in the productive sectors and other priority jobs drivers identified in the New Growth Path, through the implementation of Ipap and similar sector-based action plans for agriculture and mining.”
But Cosatu economist Neil Coleman, responding to a debate at Wits last month on implementing the NDP, said it “fails to pursue the Ipap and NGP vision of industrialising the economy, policies which themselves are being undermined by an inappropriate macro-economic policy framework”. While Radebe said there was “broad acceptance of the NDP by South Africans”, Coleman said “serious and substantial opposition was emerging from different quarters of society”, including civil society the SACP, gender and youth activists and “important actors in the ANC and in government”.
“Even if opposition had only come from Cosatu, I argue that this would have been fatal for the success of the NDP: there is no way that the NDP can be implemented without the support of organised workers, when it is this constituency more than any other (except perhaps big business) who are vital for taking such a plan forward.”
The ANC and Cosatu agreed before the elections to proceed with implementation of those areas of the plan where there was agreement and hold further talks on the contested chapter on the economy, but there has been no visible movement on this front and it appears from the MTSF and Radebe’s comments that the macro-economic thrust of the NDP, tempered by the inclusion of the New Growth Path and Ipap, will inform economic policy for the next five years. Apart from the possibility raised by Coleman that the plan will not even get off the ground, there are also targets in the MTSF that are too vague to measure.
For example, while the aim of reducing corruption in the public and private sector would be expected, there is no baseline against which it can be weighed five years from now.
The section on safety merely talks about increasing the number of convictions. Nevertheless, checking the website in 2019 should prove to be a fascinating exercise.