Infrastructure: The big picture

2014-01-19 10:00

The Infrastructure Development Bill is intended to strengthen the government’s capacity to implement the roll-out of infrastructure.

In South Africa, infrastructure development is one of the key ways of reversing the spatial patterns of apartheid, and addressing the legacies of privilege and underdevelopment that is our painful history.

In 2011, the Cabinet approved the establishment of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (Picc), chaired by the president. It looked carefully at the lessons learnt from previous programmes – including the 2010 World Cup stadiums, the airport upgrades, road construction and Gautrain projects – as part of creating the capable state needed in the infrastructure space.

The bill’s main points:

»?The coordination structures of Picc, which provides for the president to nominate members of Cabinet, and includes the premiers of provinces and representatives drawn from local government to meet regularly to drive implementation of infrastructure.

»?A planning framework for infrastructure, with a long-range plan that moves beyond the work of a single administration, in line with the National Development Plan. This ensures that we move beyond the stop-start pattern of infrastructure. It allows universities and Further Education and Training colleges to tool up to produce the skills that will be needed for the next 20 to 30 years, and it gives investors the certainty that they need to commit to long-term investment in the domestic economy.

»?The designation of Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) through the National Infrastructure Plan. To date, Picc has identified 18 SIPs that bring together hundreds of separate construction projects, which include improving schools across the country, opening the northern mining belt or developing the southeastern coastal regions. These SIPs allow for better integration of connected projects and improved monitoring of implementation.

» Sets time frames for the approval of regulatory decisions affecting the implementation of infrastructure projects.

Instead of sequential approval processes, it provides for processes to run concurrently where possible.

This ensures the state works to a common deadline.

»?Sets out processes of coordination that require regulators and relevant departments to work closely together through steering committees for each SIP that will coordinate efforts to speed up the implementation of infrastructure construction and completion.

»?Provision for Picc to expropriate land required, but makes such power subject to the Constitution and any act of Parliament specifically dealing with expropriation, passed by Parliament after the bill becomes law.

»?Mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest between decision makers and the underlying projects, as part of the government’s anti-corruption drive. It provides for tough penalties for corruption.

»?A mechanism through which developmental targets can be set for each major infrastructure project, covering areas such as local industrialisation, job creation, youth employment, greening the economy, skills development, rural development and broad-based black economic empowerment.

» ?This is an edited version of the speech given by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim

Patel at the first reading of the Infrastructure Development Bill, November 13 2013

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