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The NSDP was approved by Cabinet in January 2003. It is not a national development plan. It is merely a framework to guide development planning at all levels and recommends mechanisms to bring about alignment between infrastructure investment and development programmes within localities. At the national level, there is the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) which identifies government priorities for the electoral mandate period that inform the plans of all national government department and their public entities. The NSDP provides a common framework and planning methodology for all these different spheres of government to coordinate their efforts and improve development impact.
The relationship between the NSDP and the MTSF has been described in 1 above. AsgiSA is a set of interventions intended to unlock bottlenecks and address a set of constraints that were found to be preventing our economy from growing at the rate required to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014. AsgiSA is medium-term in nature and to the extent that it proposes fixed economic capital investments to achieve its mandate, it has to follow the NSDP planning methodology.
One of the 5 principles (Principle 2) of the NSDP emphasises that ‘government has a constitutional obligation to provide basic services to all citizens wherever they reside’. This means that in so far as fixed investment is for the purposes of providing basic services, the NSDP advocates equal (equitable?) treatment of all areas and communities. It is fixed economic capital investment that the NSDP argues should focus on areas with economic potential. The determination of such potential is a consultative process, for reflection in PGDS and IDP.
Some areas may be identified as being of medium or low potential from a national perspective and this could be different from a provincial or district perspective. The determination of level of potential is a consultative process which must involve all relevant stakeholders in a given provincial or district economy. To repeat, investment in social infrastructure should happen everywhere people are found, as a constitutional obligation. In so far as fixed economic capital investment is concerned districts should develop their IDPs using NSDP methodology including identification of economic potential, and motivate for and/or implement infrastructure development programmes to meet requirements for their economic growth. This is not limited by any national or provincial decision.
The NSDP notes that massive in-migration is happening in secondary cities as well – arising from people’s “sixth sense” about economic potential. If only for this reason, such cities would require focus in terms of investment. But beyond this, stagnation in many of these areas may be more a consequence of inadequate IDPs and economic development strategies (which should include identification of comparative advantage in both the town and its environs), rather than a deliberate decision by anyone to withhold investment from such areas – because there is no such decision. Better planning (using NSDP methodology) should result in the identification of those economies’ comparative and competitive advantages which would justify investment.
Metros and secondary cities receive quite a lot of attention in the NSDP. But so do rural areas too. The definition of economic potential used in the NSDP includes agriculture, tourism, production of high value goods, labour-intensive industries, services, etc. Many metros and secondary cities have quite a lot of potential in respect of some of these areas of potential. In fact, criticism of NSDP (though based on inadequate understanding of the methodology) has been that it is urban- rather than rural-biased.
There are many programmes, including rural development projects that are flagship projects, selected on the basis of criteria that include the urgent challenge to combat poverty. Other projects, such as in the AsgiSA document have been selected not least for immediacy of implementation and the fact that they can serve as catalysts for uplifting communities. They do not substitute for PGDS/IDP projects and any other projects undertaken by any sphere of government – in fact, once adopted, they are meant to be included in the general strategies and programmes of government. It should be further noted that, in any case, each of the other projects (infrastructure, sector strategy projects, HRD, etc) identified in AsgiSA can only happen in a geographic space; and therefore it would be incorrect to assume that a particular locality would not benefit at all from AsgiSA and other programmes.
The NSDP does not use the rural-urban lens to determine economic potential or need. The NSDP argues that undertaking infrastructure investment and development spending decisions on the basis of an area’s unique potential is likely to produce far more desirable and sustainable outcomes in terms of addressing poverty and improving growth. Hence the NSDP is based on the following:
- Dynamic qualities of areas are developed historically and culturally over a long period of time.
- In no country in the world is social and economic development and potential evenly distributed.
- Different regions have different economic potentials and the spatial variations in the incidence of poverty are also vastly different.
- Diverse and disparate spatial contexts suggests a policy approach which itself should be differentiated and conducive to the requirements of the different contexts.
The NSDP goes on to identify six categories of economic potential (viz. tourism, retail and private sector services, public services and administration, production of labour-intensive mass produced goods, innovation and experimentation) and advocates a detailed analysis of each economy to determine its potential. In fact, potential for tourism as well as retail and private sector services would apply to both rural and urban areas; agriculture forms part of mass produced goods; and some rural areas have large reserves of minerals. Thus, huge potential exists in many of the rural areas.
However, the NSDP does recognise that people as rational beings will make decisions about where they think their socio-economic needs will best be served and migrate to those areas. The direction has tended to be from rural to urban areas. As a result some areas have experienced rapid growth, and the NSDP simply argues that this must be anticipated and factored into the plans of the receiving areas. Hence the focus on people not places.
The NSDP is not intended to be some regulation that districts and metros should comply with. On the contrary, it sets out a methodology that all spheres of government should follow in conducting their planning processes. This methodology promotes the development of a coherent understanding of spatial realities, recognising that patterns of economic development, social exclusion and resource use are of paramount importance in developing our plans. In this way the NSDP promotes a rigorous analysis of regional economies resulting in a shared understanding by local stakeholders. The outcome of such a process should be a shared vision of the growth and development potential of the economies in question based on their unique qualities, characteristics and institutional endowments, a shared vision on how to take advantage of such potential for purposes of socio-economic development, and a plan of action on how to achieve our objectives. Inter-sphere coordination and collaboration is promoted as a way of mobilising and directing resources towards attainment of the shared development vision for the economies concerned.
It may as well be that, from a national (macro-) perspective, a region may appear to have low economic potential. Yet when one drills down to the detail at local level, there may be certain aspects of economic potential that can be taken advantage of.
As such, important interventions that support and enhance livelihood can be identified and implemented in such areas. These may include (1) sound rural development planning policies and programmes; (2) far more aggressive land and agrarian reform initiatives; and (3) significant expansion of agricultural extension services.
Broadly-speaking, in localities with low economic potential, as in all other areas, government should provide basic services – and provision of these services will itself provide some work opportunities.
More critically, with regard to macro-planning, government focus in these areas should be on providing social transfers, human resource development – education, skills development and training – and labour market intelligence which would enable people, if they so chose, better to take advantage of opportunities when they migrate to localities that are more likely to provide sustainable employment or other economic opportunities.
Where viable and practicable, functional linkages should be developed between various small nodes to create scale economies with respect to key services as well as access to markets, skills and financial capital. This could lead to the development of a functionally-linked network/grid of service nodes where communities can get access to key health, education, welfare, financial and other social services.