AT the launch of the National Development Plan (NDP) in August 2012, then minister in the Presidency and chairperson of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Trevor Manuel, stated that it was the product of thousands of inputs and perspectives of South Africans. He hailed it as a sure blueprint for the country’s development.
The NDP aimed to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 through an inclusive economy and enhancing the capacity and the capability of the state.
The NPC, established in 2010, was tasked with co-ordinating and monitoring the implementation of the NDP.
Seven years on, South Africa finds itself firmly in the economic doldrums and its socioeconomic challenges are no closer to being adequately addressed. Since 2012, the country has recorded an average growth of 1,5%, which is well below the average for other developing economies over the same period.
Statistics SA (StatsSA) recently announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate had reached a decade high of 29%.
In terms of inequality, the gap between the haves and the have nots continues to widen by the day and those at the bottom, who are the black majority, are left to scramble for the little resources that are available.
In some instances, this has manifested as xenophobic violence against African immigrants seeking a better life in the country.
The constant flare-ups of xenophobic attacks in townships, to a large extent, can be attributed to the frustration faced by poor black South Africans at having no access to economic opportunities.
On August 6, the NPC’s chair, Minister Jackson Mthembu, stated that the NPC will review aspects of the NDP in a bid to lead the country’s response to current economic challenges, weaknesses in the state, and other challenges affecting communities.
It is hoped that the review will grapple with the view raised by former president Thabo Mbeki who stated last year that the NDP was only a vision, and not a plan.
That level of honest engagement will assist planners to confront the perennial problem of inadequate planning which continues to hobble government’s ability to translate its plans into tangible programmes.
One of the problems afflicting the NDP, as with most government-led initiatives, is implementation or rather lack thereof.
For the NDP to achieve its objectives, a degree of policy consistency, resolute leadership and greater co-ordination between government, business and labour are required.
Policy proposals over the past seven years have been made in silos and lacked the necessary long-sightedness.
Bundled up with short-sighted policy proposals, the country has been crippled by a critical shortage of skills, high levels of corruption, lack of accountability, inadequate legislative oversight and a long history of blurring the lines between party and state.
In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa reaffirmed the NDP as the country’s development blueprint. Acknowledging that little or no progress has been made in meeting NDP targets, Ramaphosa stated that the focus will have to be on implementation. For him to succeed where the previous government has failed, bold action will be needed and most certainly a change in how things were done since the launch of the NDP in 2012.
The NPC will have to work closely with the newly established Policy Co-ordination Unit to get rid of the silo mentality that has been the norm with government in the recent past.
Lastly, there must be consequences for underperformance. Mediocrity must come with a price.
Without that, in a decade’s time, we will be speaking of the great plan the NDP was, but due to little or no implementation, was never truly realised.
• Calvin Matlou is an engagement manager at Frontline Africa.