Chance to build a better future for all
THE National Planning Commission is making a case for what needs to be done by all, regardless of political persuasion.
When we raise targets, the numbers we use are the precise targets that we must aim for.
Now we are aware that we will not hit all of these, but all of us need a consciousness of how wide off the mark we actually are. It is also important to introduce into this discussion the reality that no nation has attained all of which it desires.
There needs to be public discussion that is sufficiently inclusive and mature to construct trade-offs between what we can do immediately and what can be deferred.
This process only works if there is honesty and accountability.
The commission has also identified other enabling milestones to achieve the broad objectives of the plan.
For example, we would have to create an additional 11-million jobs over the next two decades. Per capita income should rise from about R50,000 per person to about R120,000, but distributed more evenly across the population.
The economy would have to expand to almost three times the present level. The share of income accruing to the bottom 40% of the population should rise from 6% to 10%.
Ninety percent of children in Grade 6 should be able to read, write and count at the appropriate level and all children should have access to proper nutrition from birth to ensure proper formative development.
Now, it is worth digressing to remind all South Africans that between that desirable state and the present, where even the school nutrition programme is difficult to implement, lies a huge chasm.
The object of the plan is to bridge such a chasm - why does food not get delivered to children? Is it the capacity of officials charged with the responsibility? Might it be that food is too expensive and impossible to secure?
Might it be that tenders get in the way of the objective of feeding children?
Or might it be that decision-makers are too wealthy to care?
Whatever the issue, a plan must boldly raise the breakdown and invite all South Africans to become part of the solution.
These targets are more than just arbitrary or distant points on a road map. They are carefully calibrated milestones along a path to prosperity and equity for all.
Despite massive progress since 1994, on the present trajectory, we will not achieve our target of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.
Without faster progress, there is a real chance that South Africa could slide backwards while dealing with the immense challenges overwhelming our capacity tosucceed.
For these reasons, we must accelerate the pace of change, work harder and better to move towards the vision we all aspire to. It is possible. We are capable as a nation of achieving these bold and ambitious, but realistic objectives.
When we unite and work together, we can achieve miracles. Our history is testament to this. Our plan to eliminate poverty and inequality rests on six pillars:
- Unite all South Africans around a common programme to fight poverty and inequality and to foster a spirit of unity.
But this will remain a hollow call unless we can improve the lives of young black people.
To promote social cohesion, the commission proposes that the preamble to the Constitution be displayed in all workplaces and schools and that all South Africans are encouraged to learn at least one indigenous African language.
We also propose ways to improve the efficacy of redress measures such as black economic empowerment and employment equity.
- Active citizenry. Working individually and collectively with others in the community, citizens have a critical role to play in their own development and in the development of our country. The idea that people sit back and wait for government to deliver is neither feasible nor consistent with "people-centred" development.
Citizens and communities have a responsibility to hold their leaders accountable for their actions. It is up to every single one of us to hold our leaders responsible for implementation of the plan.
- Growing an inclusive economy. Without faster and more inclusive economic growth, it will not be possible to deliver on the objectives that we have set for ourselves.
We need this to help pay for the development of capabilities such as education and infrastructure to improve the life chances of our people. The main change we seek is an economy that is more labour absorbing. We need to create more jobs and make progress in broadening ownership of the economy.
Our economy is caught in a low- growth trap. To reverse this, we require higher investment, better skills, rising savings and greater levels of competitiveness. We do not suffer a poverty of ideas; our weakness is in implementation.
We need to improve coordination within government and with other social partners to boost investment and employment. The plan also identifies a deficit in trust between business, labour and government that needs to be reversed if we are to build this economy.
The main target in respect of the economy is to raise employment by 11-million to 24-million by 2030. This will require an extraordinary effort.
- The urgent need to build the capabilities of both people and the state. For some, capabilities might be adequate nutrition or a bus to get to a place of work.
For others, it might be a college certificate to boost the chances of getting a job.
Across the country, capabilities cover things like what broadband speed we would require, the amount of energy we would need to power a growing economy, port capacity to support a diversified economy or the water supply that meets the needs of households, industry and agriculture.
- A capable and developmental state that is professional, competent and responsive to the needs of all citizens.
We seek a professional civil service that can weather changes in political administrations. The plan is for all South Africans and it cannot therefore focus on electoral cycles.
Building a capable and developmental state means building the capacity of the state to effectively implement its key priorities and programmes. The tendency to outsource everything, including at times, our thinking, must end.
- Responsibilities of leadership throughout society to work together to solve our problems. South Africa's progress in navigating the transition from apartheid to democracy was built on the ability of leaders to put aside narrow sectarian interests in favour of national interest, leaders who were able to put aside short-term political agendas for long-term benefit.
Cabinet, led by the President, will consider this plan, adopt the key recommendations of the plan and set in motion a focused programme to implement the plan.
This is not just a plan for government. There are actions and responsibilities for business, labour, civil society and individuals.
We have an opportunity to construct a future we all want.
We must not squander this opportunity.
- Manuel is Minister for National Planning. This is an edited version of a speech delivered yesterday in Parliament where he released the National Development Plan 2030.