Address by the Minister in The Presidency: National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel, on the occasion of the Budget Vote Debate of The Presidency
14 June 2011
His Excellency, President J G Zuma;
Deputy President, K P Motlanthe;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last week, the National Planning Commission (NPC) released its diagnostic report, launching a period of public engagement aimed at uniting all South Africans in a process that develops solutions to our critical challenges. Already we have received dozens of comments and pledges of support. Allow me to quote just two:
I’m a pastor from the Dutch Reformed Church in Lynnwood and would love to be part of this wave of renewal. This is one dream we must share and let it spread like a fire!
I did run the idea of my participation past the Chairperson of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Northern part of South Africa and he gave the green light to be a link to your cause.
Immanuel van Tonder, Dutch Reformed Church, Lynnwood Pretoria
The second quote comes from Ziphilele Gaju, a teacher from Port Elizabeth. He says,
We must begin to review and measure ourselves on the basis on what we and the rest of the continent are currently faced with and begin to revise our past, in the present for an improved future, without waiting for things to fall apart.
We are heartened that our public engagement process has been received so warmly by so many South Africans. In particular, we would like to thank the National Assembly for the opportunity to launch the diagnostic report in Parliament, affording us an opportunity to engage with the nation’s representatives and to talk directly to millions of South Africans. We look forward to engaging on the solutions.
The National Planning Commission has spent the bulk of the 14 months since its appointment conducting research, meeting with experts and stakeholders and listening to South Africans about the key challenges that confront us. South Africans are united in affirming that the values of the Constitution should form the basis of our vision. The elements of the vision statement that we tabled last week are drawn directly from our Constitution. South Africans are equally emphatic that eliminating poverty and reducing inequality are our key strategic objectives.
The National Planning Commission identified nine key challenges that confront us in meeting our objectives of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality. These are:
· that too few South Africans are working,
· the quality of education for most black learners is still substandard,
· our infrastructure is inadequate to meet our social and economic needs,
· the spatial legacy of apartheid planning limits social inclusion and growth,
· our development path is too resource intensive and hence unsustainable,
· our public health system is ailing under a massive disease burden,
· public service performance is uneven,
· corruption levels are high and undermines service delivery, and
· South Africa remains a divided society.
These nine challenges are underpinned by extensive research and engagement with key stakeholders. We are fully mindful of the fact that agreeing on the major challenges is the easy task. Developing solutions that enjoy broad support and that are implementable will be much harder. However a problem correctly diagnosed is a problem at least half solved.
We recognise that these are formidable challenges. We are confident that South Africa has the capabilities to solve them. We raise these challenges mindful of our successful track record in uniting as a people to confront our greatest challenges.
Through a national dialogue, involving the broadest spectrum of South Africans, we can indeed develop solutions and the capacity to implement these solutions. As we point out in the diagnostic report, success will require the involvement of all South Africans, clear leadership from all sectors of society, proper planning, clear prioritisation and a meticulous focus on implementation.
It is important that we indicate that the process of consultation takes a shared collaborative form. That we have made all these documents available –it will be available in all the official languages in the next week – is only one part of this process. The Commissioners supported by the secretariat are very determined to take the ideas of the Elements of the Vision Statement and the Diagnostic Document into every corner of South Africa. We want to share our observations with everyone and it is vitally important that we get feedback from all South Africans. As we take this process forward, we want to place special emphasis on young people who must be involved in defining the South Africa of 2030, a time when many of us will have passed or at least be out of the policy making arena. A time when they will be in a positions of decision-making. They must be heard on the future that they want. The planning commission provides a bridge into this future.
The public engagement process will be multi-dimensional, in order to give all citizens an opportunity to contribute to the solutions. Commissioners will visit all provinces and meet with elected leaders, civil society, business, communities and in particular young people to listen to them. We will also receive comments by email, fax, text message and in writing. Soon, we will establish the capacity to receive phone calls so that people can simply call us to tell us what they think. In addition to using social networking methods to receive input, we will also host what is called an online ‘jam’, which will allow thousands of people to participate in an interactive, online discussion on key issues that confront us.
In parallel, the Commission is already working on aspects of the plan, conducting detailed research and meeting with experts to guide the drafting of the development plan.
There is an incredible amount of detail that is required. Allow me to illustrate using just one issue as an example. We have identified the resource-intensive nature of our development path as a key challenge. There are several questions that have to be answered. How will we transition to a low carbon economy while creating jobs and raising competitiveness? Can we transition to a low carbon economy and still exploit our vast mineral wealth for the good of all South Africans? How will we use our water resources more efficiently? What type of infrastructure is required to provide water to all our people, throughout the country? What is our solution to the challenge that some regions are likely to become water stressed quite soon? How do manage our marine and fishing resources to meet the needs of future generations? How do we produce more food using less water?
As is evident, this single challenge throws up dozens of questions that need to be answered and the answers must be based on solid research, sound evidence and careful plans, tested with all major stakeholders.
In November this year, the NPC will release a Vision Statement and a Development Plan for consideration by the public and Cabinet. As mentioned earlier, the National Planning Commission is largely an advisory body. Decisions and implementation reside with the President and the Executive, and various spheres of government and entities.
The work of the National Planning Commission does not stop in November. November merely signals the end of the first phase of work of the Commission. Next year and in subsequent years, the Commission will produce much more detailed plans on specific topics, guided by the Green Paper on the National Planning Commission and the needs of the President and Cabinet. For example, in 2012, we might present detailed reports on food security, water security and on managing the transition to a low carbon economy. Each of these reports will have much more detail than can be fitted into a single overarching national development plan.
Turning to some of the specifics of our budget. We are asking Parliament to vote a total of R83.8 million to the NPC this year. The Appropriation Bill provides for a purpose for each programme. The programme: National Planning has as its purpose to help develop the country’s long term vision and national strategic plan and contribute towards better outcomes in government through better planning, better long term plans, more policy coherence and clear articulation of long term goals and aspirations. The planning commission, and the secretariat which is based in the Presidency, will strive to achieve these goals by working together with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and other departments and spheres. In particular, we will work closely with other ‘centre of government’ departments that provide strategic advice and support to the President and Cabinet.
The Commission consists of the chairperson and 25 independent part-time commissioners, appointed on the basis of their expertise and experience. The budget for National Planning provides resources to compensate commissioners for the time that we take from them and for work that they do in fulfilling the mandate of the Commission. Resources are also provided for administrative support, travel and accommodation, meetings and other public engagements. These resources can be found in the sub-programme called Ministry.
The Ministry sub-programme also includes resources for a programme called the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS). NIDS is South Africa’s national panel study, a longitudinal survey that will span at least a decade. NIDS Wave 1 (the base survey) was undertaken in 2008, Wave 2 in 2010 and Wave 3 will be undertaken in 2012. In Wave 1, 7 305 households were surveyed, and a total of 28 255 individuals were interviewed. The Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town is the implementing agency for NIDS Wave 1 and 2. The NIDS Wave 3 tender process is nearing completion and the contract will be signed in the current financial year.
An important component of the NIDS is capacity building; through the contract with SALDRU they have to train students in quantitative analysis. In this regard 14 scholarships were awarded to students doing their Honours, Masters, PhD and Post-doctoral work. In Wave 2, 12 students and junior researchers were awarded scholarships or work experience opportunities.
The NIDS data set provides an invaluable resource with which to track the income, employment and asset status of South African. As an example for the usefulness of this programme, one of the studies, Low Quality Education as a Poverty Trap, undertaken by Professor Servaas van den Berg (2011) at Stellenbosch University shows that the education system generally produces outcomes that reinforce current patterns of poverty and privilege instead of challenging them. The inequalities in schooling outcomes manifest via labour market outcomes, perpetuate current patterns of income inequality. This is a key conclusion of the diagnostic report that we released last week.
All NIDS data and research papers are publicly available on the NIDS website. The information posted here is serving as a valuable resource to our academics and government departments to develop anti-poverty programmes and strategies.
The second sub-programme covers research and policy support to the Commission and Minister. The salaries of the members of the secretariat involved in research and technical support to the Commission is covered here. In addition to the resources provided by the fiscus, several donors have also contributed towards the research work of the Commission. For example, the British High Commission and the Norwegian government are co-funders in some of our work to explore how we will transition to a low-carbon economy. The European Union has funded some of our research into the economy, including a study into small business development and entrepreneurship.
The third sub-programme covers communications and public participation, enabling the Commission to listen to the public, receive input of various types and to communicate the findings and reports of the Commission. In addition to the more traditional means of communication, we are making a special effort to communicate with young people, partly because as mentioned earlier it is the youth who comprise the most valuable stakeholder in planning for a 2030 future.
When the President appointed the National Planning Commission, in his mind, he saw it as part of a series of reforms aimed at improving coherence in government and the performance of the state more generally. For this reason, the success of the NPC as an initiative is at least partly dependent on working together with other stakeholders inside the Presidency, in government in general and with society at large. We pledge to continue to work collaboratively with other stakeholders.
When commissioners were appointed, I do not think that they knew what they were signing up for. They probably thought that it would take a few hours a month of their time. This has not been the case. Commissioners have given up a huge amount of their time, attending meetings, overseeing research, consulting with stakeholders and engaging with government departments. We thank them for the hard work and sacrifice that they are making to contribute to the development of a vision and plan. They do this because they are patriotic South Africans who are passionate about the success of this country.
The President’s appointment of such independent-minded outsiders to do such a difficult and complex job is a huge vote of confidence in our democracy and in our Constitution. We thank him for his leadership and support throughout the process so far.
Honourable Speaker in addition to my role as chairperson of the National Planning Commission, there are several functions that I perform that do not relate to the work of the Commission directly. I have been asked by the President to help coordinate work on the North-South Corridor, an international effort under the auspices of AU and NEPAD to promote infrastructure investment in road and rail along this important corridor.
I also serve as one of the joint chairs of the Transition Committee of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, tasked with designing and mobilising a Green Climate Fund. The work of this committee is especially important as we look forward to hosting COP 17 in Durban later this year.
And as a board member of the Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute, I am part of a globally represented, non-profit institute dedicated to the promotion of economic growth and development while reducing carbon emissions, increasing sustainability, and strengthening climate resilience. In particular, the Institute supports emerging and developing nations in their efforts to create and implement national and local strategies and policies for pursuing green growth.
In conclusion, Honourable Speaker, I would like to thank both the President and the Deputy President for the support that they have given us in our work over the past year. We are convinced that the boldness displayed by the President in appointing the planning commission and the faith that he has displayed in their abilities will be evident as we embark on this journey. I also wish to thank the staff in the ministry and in the presidency for their hard work in the process thus far.