Government to forge ahead with R700bn infrastructure investments despite Covid-19
Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille says the country will push ahead with its infrastructure investment ambitions despite many of the plans being undermined by the economic damage caused by the scourge of the coronavirus.
De Lille was speaking on Tuesday during the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings, which is aimed at addressing the infrastructure needs of the country.
The infrastructure plan will see over R700 billion invested in high-impact infrastructure development projects, including in water and sanitation, energy, transport, digital infrastructure, agriculture and agro-processing as well as human settlements.
According to De Lille, her department and the infrastructure investment office in the Presidency headed by Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, have embarked on an extensive consultation process and developed a new methodology of planning and project preparation.
She said the sixth administration under President Cyril Ramaphosa has identified the need for a credible project pipeline of infrastructure projects that are ready and bankable for investment and implementation, a comprehensive focused infrastructure plan.
She maintained that there was also a need to address the fragmented infrastructure delivery in the country.
“Our country, like many countries across the globe, is facing a recession of enormous proportions and the Covid-19 pandemic has placed SA even in a worse position where the construction sector has been hit the hardest.
"The severe economic recession together with the pandemic have now placed an added urgency on us to navigate a new normal."
De Lille also said the new conditions had increased the need for partnership between the public and private sector to help facilitate socioeconomic a purposeful way.
“In SA, infrastructure investment, together with the use of public land and buildings, is a critical lever to achieve spatial and economic justice by connecting our people, integrating our communities and bringing people closer to work opportunities,” she said.
The symposium was attended by representatives from local and international development finance institutions, cabinet ministers and members of provincial executive councils from the nine provinces.
These included the World Bank, the New Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa who have pledged support for some of the projects.
She said the new methodology focused on ensuring that infrastructure development was not taken in a merely transactional manner but that there was proper evaluation to ensure bankability.
“Such evaluations are necessary to ensure that projects are functional from a financial, intersectorial and needs perspective,” she said.
De Lille, meanwhile, disputed claims that the government lacked the capacity to lead infrastructure development, adding that her department had developed the database of both young unemployed and retired professionals who could help in pushing ahead with the planned infrastructure projects.
Ramokgopa said there were 276 projects being showcased at the symposium, with 88 of them ready for financial investment.
“We had a market sounding session, pitching sessions, on the 28th and 29th of May, where we unveiled 93 projects to an audience of 60 financing institutions represented by over 210 delegates. I can say with a degree of confidence that we have received firm commitments on a number of those,” Ramokgopa said.
De Lille slammed the construction industry as being among the least transformed sectors in the country and for being plagued by corruption.
“We are working to put systems in place that can prevent and detect corruption. We must realise that corruption steals from the poor and that is something that we can ill afford,” she said.