Cabinet will drive 2030 development plan
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The ANC have been concerned about the state’s ability to deliver on day-to-day things, writes Vukani Mde.
Whatever one thinks of the National Development Plan (NDP) and whether it is capable of achieving the goals it sets out for South Africa by 2030, there can be no doubt the cabinet sworn in on Monday is aimed at driving implementation of that plan.
President Jacob Zuma and the ANC have been concerned for a while about the state’s ability not only to drive the plan but to deliver on the more mundane day-to-day things that decent government is meant to do as a matter of course.
The problem, of course, goes far deeper than the capabilities of those who make up the national executive, and it will be interesting to see over the next few months what will be done to boost state capacity. There were some indications in the nature of the changes that Zuma announced on Sunday, some worth highlighting below.
The state capacity challenge was one of the key reasons for the clamour for a long-term planning function in the highest echelons of the government, which led to the formation of the National Planning Commission. While the commission was never integrated into the state in the way that the ANC’s left allies desired, the plan that resulted from it is now, for better or worse, at the centre of Zuma’s second administration and, one assumes, every ANC administration until 2030.
Similar to five years ago, Zuma made significant changes to how government departments are organised, as well as announcing a few new ones. The two most significant changes were made in the economic cluster of ministries.
In the first, the president announced the formation of a new ministry for small business development. The NDP identifies two possible drivers for the type of economic performance the country needs going forward:
* Massive state investment in infrastructure, both as a direct generator of work opportunities and as an attempt to “crowd in” private sector investment in potential growth sectors.
* Boosting entrepreneurial drive by supporting small businesses, thought to be the most likely source of sustainable jobs.
Committed state investment in infrastructure already stands at R1 trillion, and up to R4 trillion if you count projects that are still in the conceptualisation phase.
The creation of this new ministry, to be headed by ANC heavyweight and former ambassador Lindiwe Zulu, signals the desire to act on the second of these two NDP goals.
It is possible that some development finance institutions and support agencies, particularly those aimed at small business or broadening economic participation (the National Empowerment Fund, the Small Enterprise Development Agency) could later be housed under this new department. If this is taken to its logical conclusion, the same should await the National Youth Development Agency.
The second key change in the economic cluster is the return of a ministry for posts and telecommunications. Zuma pointed out that the ICT industry was valued at R180 billion in 2012 and growing.
More structured government support in this sector, through infrastructure construction and maintenance, legislation and regulation, promoting employment equity and empowerment, and so on, will be critical.
Included in the department’s ambit is the SA Post Office, which is no longer really about letters and parcels but is rather the largest publicly owned money transfer institution. The importance of its PostBank division is likely to soar in the next five years, as the state continues to seek ways to extend affordable financial services to the poor, particularly in areas where almost no banking infrastructure exists.
So the “new” ministry (South Africa had a post and telecoms ministry until 1999) will focus on policy and legislation in the ICT sector, laying out the infrastructure and support systems to drive ICT growth, expanding the economy’s bandwidth capacity and broadening access, regulation and control of the Post Office, and expanding access to financial services (and keeping the state’s multibillion-rand social grants payment business “inhouse”) through PostBank.
This will be an extremely important ministry, and it may be an indication of Zuma’s continued confidence in Siyabonga Cwele, despite the latter’s disastrous tenure as security minister, that he has been trusted with it.
The old Department of Communications remains, though somewhat reduced in scope and more streamlined in its focus. The department will now be a purely communications and information department. It will still have oversight over the media, through agencies such as the Media Diversity and Development Agency and the regulator, Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa).
It is likely Icasa’s telecoms regulation division, severely under-staffed, under-resourced and wholly inadequate for the dynamic environment and multi-national oligopolies in this field, will be moved to Telecoms and Posts.
The Department of Communications will also assume more functions related to “publicity and marketing”, overseeing the Government Communication and Information System, Brand SA and Proudly SA.
Zuma also made two moves that could be seen as a nod to the ruling party’s need to keep winning elections if it is to have the chance to implement its long-term programme.
He created a new water and sanitation ministry, for the first time placing responsibility for this critical function at ministerial level. Both the ruling party and the DA in the Western Cape have been embarrassed by the state of sanitation in some areas they govern.
Human Settlements is, in part, such a difficult ministry to get because of its perennial inability to plan and deliver water and sanitation services. ANC insiders also say the electorate highlighted this as a key service delivery gap, something anyone who has watched townships rise up in protest over the past few years could have told them.
Secondly, moving the capable, senior and highly experienced Pravin Gordhan to the ministry responsible for local and provincial governance, and how state money is spent at those spheres, will in time prove to be the right move.
Yes, the ANC is thinking of the NDP and its vision for South Africa in 2030. But there’s an election in 2016, and both Gordhan and Nomvula Mokonyane, his water and sanitation counterpart, will be key to the ANC doing well then.
* Vukani Mde is Independent Newspapers’s Editor: Op-ed & Analysis.
** ** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.