South Africa’s plan for a better future

South Africa’s National Development Plan, a blueprint for eliminating poverty and reducing inequality in the country by 2030, was presented to President Jacob Zuma by National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel during a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

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‘We say to one another: I cannot be without you, without you this South African community is an incomplete community, without one single person, without one single group, without the region or the continent, we are not the best that we can be’ – from South Africa’s National Development Plan (Photo: South African Government, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Brand South Africa reporter

South Africa’s National Development Plan seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 by drawing on the energies of the the country’s people, growing an inclusive economy, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

Following months of public consultation and revision, the National Development Plan 2030 was handed over to President Jacob Zuma by the chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Minister Trevor Manuel, during a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The commission released a draft of the plan in November, following this up with six months of nationwide public consultation. The revised document, entitled “Our future – make it work”, takes into account inputs received from South Africans from all walks of life, as well as business, labour, government departments, the nine provinces, and state-owned enterprises and agencies.

The Cabinet will now consider the plan before making an announcement on its implementation.

“This is a historic occasion,” Manuel told Parliament on Wednesday. “This plan is the product of thousands of inputs and perspectives of South Africans. It is a plan for a better future, a future in which no person lives in poverty, where no one goes hungry, where there is work for all.”

He said the plan was about the actions that all South Africans should take to secure the future chartered in the country’s Constitution.

Eliminating poverty, reducing inequality

The plan focuses on the elimination of poverty – reducing the proportion of households with a monthly income below R419 per person from 39 percent to zero – and reduction of inequality in South Africa.

Other goals include increasing employment from 13-million in 2010 to 24-million by 2030; broadening the country’s ownership of assets to historically disadvantaged groups; ensuring that all children have at least two years of pre-school education and that all children can read and write by grade 3; providing affordable access to healthcare; and ensuring effective public transport.

Manuel said that, during the consultation process, it emerged that there was an incredible amount of goodwill that needed to be tapped into.

However, there were problems in the country that needed strong leadership, such as joblessness, children who could not read or count, services that did not function, and public officials that were uncaring.

Interventions for a better future

The plan emphasises the need for a strategy to address poverty and its impacts by broadening access to employment, strengthening the social wage, improving public transport and raising rural incomes.

It also outlines the steps that need to be taken by the state to professionalise the public service, strengthen accountability, improve coordination and prosecute corruption.

It calls for private investment to be boosted in labour-intensive areas, competitiveness and exports. It also stresses the need for jobs to be located where people live, for informal settlements to be upgraded, and for housing market gaps to be closed.

The plan suggests that public infrastructure investment be set at 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

It says that crime can be reduced by strengthening the criminal justice system and improving community environments, and that National Health Insurance should be phased in with a focus on upgrading public health facilities, producing more health professionals, and reducing the relative cost of private healthcare.

‘Doing things differently’

“Progress over the next two decades means doing things differently,” the plan states, setting out six interlinked priorities:

  • Uniting all South Africans around a common programme to achieve prosperity and equity.
  • Promoting active citizenry to strengthen development, democracy and accountability.
  • Bringing about faster economic growth, higher investment and greater labour absorption.
  • Focusing on key capabilities of people and the state.
  • Building a capable and developmental state.
  • Encouraging strong leadership throughout society to work together to solve problems.

While achieving of these objectives will require progress on a broad front, the plan states, “three priorities stand out”:

  • Raising employment through faster economic growth.
  • Improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation.
  • Building the capability of the state to play a developmental, transformative role.

Removing structural impediments

“A sustainable increase in employment will require a faster-growing economy and the removal of structural impediments, such as poor-quality education or spatial settlement patterns that exclude the majority,” the plan argues. “These are essential to achieving higher rates of investment and competitiveness, and expanding production and exports.”

At the same time, the plan stresses the need for business, labour, communities and the government to work together to achieve faster economic growth.

“Social cohesion needs to anchor the strategy. If South Africa registers progress in deracialising ownership and control of the economy without reducing poverty and inequality, transformation will be superficial.

“Similarly, if poverty and inequality are reduced without demonstrably changed ownership patterns, the country’s progress will be turbulent and tenuous.”

Manuel said the methodology used in the plan “was to set overarching objectives, to set key targets for various sectors, and to make recommendations on how these targets can be achieved.”

Linkages between goals

He also noted that there were linkages between the goals in the plan.

“Better quality schooling will make it easier for young people to access the labour market. But it also enables workers to improve their productivity, to learn faster on the job and to raise their incomes and living standards.”

He added that good public transport would help people search for work over a wider area, and help get them to work faster and more cheaply, but it would also enable people to live fuller lives with more family and recreation time.

Manuel said the National Planning Commission would now turn its attention to mobilising society to support the plan and conducting research on critical issues affecting long-term development, and advise the government and its social partners on the implementation of the plan.

The African National Congress (ANC) welcomed the plan and commended the Commission for the work it had done. The Democratic Alliance (DA) also welcomed the plan, saying it hoped the government would align its programmes to the goals contained in it.

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