A plan steeped in value

2011-11-12 11:13

The National Development Plan, that was handed to President Jacob Zuma and to the people of South Africa on Friday, is deeply rooted in the principles and values of our Constitution.

It seeks to build on our achievements and address the shortcomings in our development, guided by the Preamble to the Constitution. For the plan to be successful, it requires active and organised communities, a capable state, and strong and decisive leadership from all avenues of society.

This is a plan for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality.

We believe that South Africa has the potential and capacity to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality over the next two decades.

To achieve these two objectives, the plan calls for a paradigm shift. This new approach is one that seeks to develop the capabilities of our people and increase the opportunities available to be grasped.

The capabilities include education, skills, decent accommodation, nutrition, health, public transport, social security and safer communities.

In order to enhance opportunities for people, we need faster economic growth, more jobs, better infrastructure, thriving rural communities and a more sustainable use of our natural resources.

The Constitution as a social compact
South Africa’s Constitution was forged through compromise with the promise of mutual benefit. In a negotiation process, each
side must give something. The negotiation process did not take place in a vacuum.

It took place in the context of an historic struggle against apartheid, a struggle for human rights and for the dignity of all citizens.

It is the values of our struggle, the values of the movement that permeate through the Constitution.

And so, while all sides had to make compromises, the values forged in our history of struggle won the day.

As things stand, we, as a country, have gained significantly from the democratic settlement that cradled the birth of our Constitution.

Democracy has helped restore the dignity of all South Africans. Its political success has resulted in improved access to education, health services, social security, water, housing, electrification and the integration of schools, residential areas and places of work.

The health of the public finances was restored. Political violence, which had claimed thousands of lives, was brought to an end.

The adoption of the Constitution, the establishment of institutions of democracy, the building of a non-racial and non-sexist public service, and the transformation of many other institutions created the foundation for a new nation.

But our work is not done.

South Africa might look different from the repressed and oppressed one we left behind in 1994, but for many poor people there is still much that looks the same.

In many areas, the country has made remarkable progress since the dawn of democracy, but too little progress has been made on the central objective of reducing poverty and inequality.

Millions of people, most of whom are young, remain unemployed and many working households live close to the poverty line.

We have to return to the Constitution, a document that many of us fought to bring to life, to guide us and shift our energies towards a more inclusive, capabilities-driven approach.

Effective leadership
The president took a bold and visionary step when he appointed the National Planning Commission (NPC).

The commissioners were honest in the diagnostic report on where we, as political and civil society leaders, have failed our country over the past 17 years.

There is truth in the claim it is always easier to state what is wrong than come up with solutions.

We in the commission have been buoyed by thousands of people who provided input, comment and criticism, and proposed solutions towards the development of the plan.

The plan provides detailed proposals in several areas but its success needs much more than that. The success of the plan depends on public support as much as it does on effective leadership and it is underpinned by a capable, efficient and fair state.

Furthermore, partnerships based on mutual trust are vital. Leadership, unity and cohesion are difficult in our still-divided society, yet these are the very things that help to anchor successful nations and effective development strategies.

The challenges ahead are massive, but the patience of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised have been tested severely since the birth of our democracy.

Anything less than the eradication of poverty and inequality will be considered a failure by future generations of South Africans.

This plan is a call to us, as a nation including our leaders across society, to generate the trust that is required to implement meaningful change and measurable improvement in the lives of our people.

We have the ability, the people, the resources and the goodwill to beat poverty and inequality.

The plan as a paradigm shift
The plan presented to the president on Friday calls for a paradigm shift away from a delivery model to a capabilities approach, one that moves from a passive citizenry receiving services from the state to one that systematically includes the socially and economically excluded in their own development.

In terms of this model, people are active champions of their own development, and government works effectively to develop people’s capabilities to lead the lives they desire while ensuring that they are protected from the extremes of poverty and vulnerability.

The success of this approach is premised on:

» The active efforts and participation of all citizens in their own development;
» Redressing the injustices of the past effectively;
» Faster economic growth, and higher investment and employment;
» Raising standards of education, a healthy population and effective social protection;
» Strengthening the links between economic and social strategies;
» An effective and capable government;
» Collaboration between the private and public sectors; and
» Leadership from all sectors of society.

The plan should, therefore, become the property of all South Africans. The NPC, which was set up to devise the plan, drew strongly on definitions of development that focus on creating the conditions, opportunities and capabilities that enable people to lead the lives that they desire.

In this sense, development is the process of continuously raising the capabilities of all citizens, especially those who were previously disadvantaged and in under-resourced areas of the country.

So the capabilities that people need to grasp opportunities include human capital (built through education, health, skills and work experience);
physical infrastructure (schools, clinics, ports and power lines); technologies; management skills; and the social institutions needed to allow people to live decent lives.

It requires shifting from a paradigm of entitlement to a paradigm that promotes the development of capabilities, the creation of opportunities and citizen participation.

Government’s strategy to date has been to provide a range of social services, including social security.

Because of the uneven capability of the state, we have excelled at doing the things that are easier, such as paying grants and providing water and electricity, but faltered at doing the difficult things such as improving education, promoting employment and building houses close to jobs.

By default, we have had a distorted development effort. We believe that by developing and upgrading capabilities to enable sustainable and inclusive development we will go a long way in reaching the objectives of establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

The plan recognises that a s

pecial focus is needed to improve the life chances of women and youth. Because of our apartheid history, women suffered from oppression in ways that were much worse than men. A plan must address this historical injustice.

Today, the youth form the bulk of our population. Their life chances, at present, reads like a depressing story. Whether they are still in school or already out of school, our plan must improve the life chances of young people.

Improving the quality of education and raising the number of employed youth is our most urgent task.

In this plan, we have chosen to treat these themes in an integrated manner.

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