SA needs a paradigm shift – National Planning Commission

2011-11-11 14:35

South Africa can get rid of poverty and reduce inequality over the next 20 years if it undergoes a paradigm shift, according to the national development plan released today.

“At the core of the vision statement are two issues ... it’s about eliminating poverty and reducing inequality and giving South Africans a better life,” National Planning Commission deputy chairman Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters in Pretoria.

“This requires a new approach – one that moves from passive citizenry receiving services from the state, to one that systematically includes the socially and economically excluded,” reads an overview of the plan developed by the National Planning Commission.

The National Planning Commission is headed by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, who worked with 24 independent commissioners since their appointment in May 2010 to produce South Africa’s first national development plan.

The plan proposes that people are active champions of their own development and that the government works effectively to develop people’s capabilities.

For this approach to be successful it requires faster economic growth and higher investment and employment, rising education standards, a healthy population and social protection.

It would need an effective and capable government, collaboration between the private and public sectors and strong leadership from all sectors of society.

The two main goals of the plan are to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

South Africa has not adopted a standard definition of poverty, so the National Planning Commission suggests using a poverty line of about R418 (in 2009 prices) per person per month.

The plan’s success would be based on reducing the proportion of people living below this level from the 39% of the population now, to zero by 2030.

Reducing inequality would be achieved if the Gini co-efficient falls from the current level of 0.7 to 0.6 by 2030.

The Gini co-efficient is a measure of inequality, with zero representing full equality and one maximum inequality.

A level of 0.6 would still be very high, but mark a significant shift, according to the report.

In the report, nine main challenges are identified, including the two most important – too few people working and a poor standard of education for most black pupils.

“Increasing employment and improving the quality of education must be the highest priorities. Failure to raise employment and improve the quality of education would signal failure,” according to the report.

The other problems identified are poorly located and maintained infrastructure, or lack thereof; spatial patterns that exclude the poor from the fruits of development; an economy overly and unsustainably resource intensive; and a widespread disease burden compounded by a failing public health system.

Public services are uneven and often of poor quality; corruption is widespread; and South Africa remains a divided society.

If these problems are not addressed, it could lead to a destructive cycle which would see economic decline, falling living standards, rising competition for resources and social tension.

“Persistently high levels of poverty will prompt social instability, leading to a rise in populist politics and demands for short-term measures that lead to further tension and decline,” according to the report.

Ramaphosa said many of the ideas in the plan were not new, but had been examined in an overarching way in great detail and depth.

“It provides a number of proposals that if implemented could catapult our country upwards to solve many of our problems,” he said.

The vision statement and national development plan were handed to President Jacob Zuma this afternoon.

The president would consider them, and there would be consultations over the next six months to improve on the plan. After this, Cabinet could adopt it.

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