The National Development Plan: same old song, different harmony

2013-01-10 14:29

President Jacob Zuma appointed a National Planning Commission in May of 2010, led by Minister Trevor Manuel in the hopes of pulling together a National Development Plan (NDP). At its 53rd National Elective Conference, the ANC adopted the NDP in favour of its incumbent president.

He came to power promising to tackle unemployment and corruption, but has accomplished little in that regard. Even with a growing lack of enthusiasm for his leadership, Zuma hopes that the plan will be his longstanding legacy. The plan aims to bring about transformation in order to achieve a worthy spirit of confidence and trust, a growing economy and expanding opportunities to the many of the disenfranchised South Africans who continue to live under less desirable conditions.

The NDP paints a handsome picture of a prosperous South Africa and speaks volumes about the political commitment in attaining such transformation.

Briefly, the plan has two high level objectives. The first is to reduce the number of people who live in households with a monthly income below R419 per capita. The second is to reduce inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, from 0.69 to 0.62.

Without fear of illogicality, South Africa has often drawn up magnificent policy plans that address a lot of economic ills, however many of these plans and policies hardly come to tangible fruition due to poor implementation and lack of political will.

In the 18 years since South Africa became a democracy, a notable but underwhelming progress has been made. Many South Africans have the opportunity to participate in general economic activities and the constitution is rather liberal and rousing relative to many African countries. By and large, the constitutional court and the national prosecuting authority (both important in upholding the rule of law) are still independent and committed to the laws and constitution although the ANC has repeatedly tried to politicize these institutions. Many in the ANC still appear fearful with the Constitutional Court’s independence and the propensity of its judges to criticize the party’s actions.

Without diverting away from my topic, in many ways we are still endowed with social ills that continue to cripple our rainbow nation. Recently labour protests have become a symptom of the profound malady that has taken hold of economic stability and progress. These deep difficulties are now so entrenched that the ANC looks incapable of solving them. This is evidenced by the ever expanding gap between the rich and the poor. The standard of living for the masses is too low, education particularly for blacks is poor; the statistics of which I would rather not dwell into.

Surprisingly though, the NDP points to the fact that ‘the quality of school education for black people is poor’. I find this rather contradictory to what Minister Angie Motshekga continuously says about the quality of our schooling system. This indicates that our government doesn’t speak with one voice.

In 1994 we had the RDP programme which was replaced by GEAR and later on in 2006 we had the introduction of ASGISA. All these national plans have sung the same song but with a different tune of halving unemployment, reducing inequality and improving education among other things. Now there’s the NDP. These national plans are somewhat congruent in nature, implying that we are dabbling with policies that are known to have failed and yet we keep on repainting them with fancy titles such as the National Development plan.

All these plans fail at the microeconomic level owing to institutional failure, lack of political accountability, the appointment of people without relevant skills and the knowhow of institutions which they lead resulting in a vacuum of the much needed basic human provisions that most South Africans are in dire need of.

South Africa’s stability rests in the effective implementation of its plans and policies on the ground level where it matters the most. The NDP is a bold and imaginative attempt to achieve economic prosperity, but its success at this stage is perhaps more in the mind of its authors rather than reality.

The NDP could become yet another victim of its drafters in attempts to effectively reach out to a deprived populace and there is a hazard that disillusionment will befall, rather than the tangible economic prospects it yearns for.

Follow Thabiso on Twitter @ThabisoMolewa

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