CAPE TOWN - This year being the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP), it behoves us, as a country, to reflect on the status of the plan and its implementation. We must start by acknowledging there has not been any systematic communication on the progress of implementing the NDP. This is in the process of being changed, not least by this Business Report NDP column.
In the absence of information it is understandable that a false narrative can be peddled that the NDP is not being implemented at all, and it is dead.
A less gloomy claim is that implementation and leadership are inadequate or weak. This shortcoming in communicating what is taking place must be addressed.
For the sake of the country and its future, falsities and ambiguities about the NDP are dangerous, if only for the national morale, which is already challenged in the current environment.
The second national planning commission (NPC) appointed by President Jacob Zuma in September 2015 and charged with promoting and advising the government and the nation on the implementation of the NDP - after the first NPC of 2010 - is aware of this communication challenge, together with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).
A truism is that only demonstrable action and hard evidence will be the proof that the NDP is alive and being implemented, notwithstanding the need for effective communication. Even better, as we have previously advocated, is demonstrable collective and co-ordinated action by the key role players, the government, business, labour and the citizenry at large.
A truism too is that there are many actions under way, inspired by and seeking to advance the NDP.
This work is reflected in various performance data released periodically by Statistics SA (Stats SA). However, these numbers need to be accompanied by a story in order to demonstrate action and progress, as I shall try to show.
Naturally, our account of the implementation of the NDP is from the vantage point of what the government is doing, while the role of other actors still needs to come to the fore for a more complete picture of national performance towards realising the goals and vision of the plan.
While the government has the responsibility to lead the nation in implementing the NDP (as is the norm in all countries similarly pursuing national development plans), the challenge for the government and the NPC is to ensure that all hands are on deck to implement the plant.
The NPC is currently grappling with this challenge and will pronounce on it in due course.
It is also quite pleasing that I am writing this instalment of the NDP column after the conclusion of the recent national policy conference of the ANC, which resoundingly re-affirmed the commitment of the party and the government to the NDP, and to accelerating its implementation.
To remind us of the bold goals we have set for ourselves as a nation, the NDP commits us, by 2030, to eradicate absolute poverty by uplifting the 39percent of our people who live below the poverty line; to reduce the unemployment rate to 6percent by creating 11million more jobs, and to significantly reduce inequality from 0.69 to 0.60 on the Gini-coefficient through a range of policy interventions.
Partly due to doubts that may be lingering, it bears restating that after Parliament’s unanimous adoption of the NDP on behalf of the nation the cabinet ensured that the goals and targets of the plan are integrated into the government’s medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) for the electoral period 2014-2019, as the first five-year implementation programme for the NDP.
The aim of the MTSF is also to ensure policy coherence, alignment and co-ordination across government plans as well as alignment with budgeting processes.
As stated in my previous column, the DPME has the task to ensure that the strategies and annual plans of national and provincial departments are aligned to, and advance, the long-term goals and priorities of the NDP. On this basis, the department monitors the implementation of the NDP and reports quarterly to the cabinet, and to the public through our website, as well as through a branding and communication campaign that is being rolled out.
As is tradition, at the mid-point of the five-yearly MTSF action programme, a mid-term review of performance against planned targets is conducted with a view to assessing progress and proposing remedies for shortcomings and priorities for accelerated implementation.
In this regard, the perspective of the government is that the assessment of our performance during the medium-term period of 2014-2019 is against the backdrop of, and builds on, the successes of our post-apartheid socio-economic development programmes, as inspired by our democratic constitution.
The NDP is designed to consolidate, sustain and enhance these successes. Indeed, we have adopted the NDP precisely to help us focus and strengthen our efforts in tackling the core challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment which are obstacles to the attainment of a just, inclusive and prosperous society. The plan provides us with a more co-ordinated and consistent way to steer our programmes and interventions, based on measurable evidence.
Jeff Radebe, the Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, put it succinctly during the debate on the Presidency’s budget vote in Parliament in May 2017: “We are on course towards realising (former ANC president) Oliver Tambo’s vision (which) is inscribed in our constitution, which he inspired so much. South Africa is a stable and peaceful country today. “Our democracy is thriving; our constitution protects the rights and freedoms of citizens.
“Our economy is functional and continues to attract global investor interest, because it has unlimited opportunities and huge potential to grow faster, and to be inclusive of all South Africans (notwithstanding recent setbacks). Our programmes for socio-economic development are in motion, including our infrastructure capital investment programme. We have expanded access to basic services, to health, education and social protection, and through this we are containing extreme poverty.”
Part 2 of this column will run next month.
Tshediso Matona is the secretary for national planning.