Address by Trevor Manuel, Minister of National Planning Commission to the AGRISA Conference; 'New Challenges in Agriculture', Protea Hotel, Stellenbosch
20 February 2012
Master of Ceremonies,
AGRI SA President and Executive Committee
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for including a discussion on the National Development Plan in this very important conference that you have convened under the theme, ” New challenges in Agriculture.” Of course, we would much prefer it if Agri SA recognized that the proposed plan is the greatest opportunity presented to agriculture, rather than a challenge.
Let me locate the National Planning Commission in the broader body politic of South Africa. The Commission is made up of 26 Commissioners, out of whom I am the only full-time member and the only Commissioner from inside government. The proposal to invite 25 competent men and women from outside of government is unique, and the President’s idea. When he inaugurated the Commission on 11 May 2010, he reminded the NPC that it is the very first Planning Commission in SA and he asked it to take a “broad, cross-cutting, independent and critical view to help define the South Africa we seek to achieve in 20 years time and to map out a path to achieve those objectives.” He also asked the Commission to work with broader society, to consult relevant stakeholders and to help shape a consensus.
So, this discussion is four square within the mandate given to the NPC. In June 2011, we released a diagnostic – the Nine Challenges facing South Africa. Let me recap those 9 challenges:
• Too few South Africans are employed;
• The quality of education for poor black South Africans is sub-standard;
• Poorly located and inadequate infrastructure limits social inclusion and faster economic growth;
• South Africa’s growth path is resource-intensive and therefore unsustainable;
• Spatial challenges continue to marginalize the poor;
• The ailing public health system confronts a massive disease burden;
• The performance of the public service is uneven;
• Corruption undermines state legitimacy and service delivery;
• South Africa remains a divided society.
The NPC had complete freedom to raise the matters, however thorny some of them are. We then proceeded to undertake very broad consultation on whether we had correctly identified the main challenges. Out of these consultations, a further 4 challenges were raised, namely, the rural economy (a topic that I want to return to shortly), community safety, social protection and, finally, a view of South Africa in Africa and the world.
This we released as a proposed National Development Plan on 11 November last year.
The broad approach that the NPC has taken has been to take every “challenge”, and then to view it as an opportunity. So, the challenge relates to the “quality of education for the majority”, the opportunity is “Improving on education, innovation and training.” Each of the 13 thematic chapters includes a series of very practical implementable actions.
We are not dealing with 13 unrelated chapters in a book. These areas are all inter-connected and we require actions across the board, simultaneously, rather than some attempts to do things in sequence. We have added an appreciation of a few other areas – firstly, there is what we call the “drivers of change”. These are 6 elements that will shape the global economy and opportunities for a country such as ours over the next 20 years. These elements are – globalization, inter-connectivity, technology, climate change, the tilt in the economic centre of gravity from West to East, and the rise of Africa. Each of these needs to be studied, appreciated and engaged with - we ignore these at our peril. We have also given attention to population dynamics over the next 20 years – so, for example, the South African population size will grow from around 50 million to 58.5 million by 2030, of whom 70% will move into the cities. We have a fair idea of age distribution patterns by then, and we can develop a perspective on job needs, housing and settlement patterns, and a range of similar opportunities that will present themselves.
I want to, again, make the point that all of this work is technically sound and inter-connected. Yet, we have embarked on a detailed process of consultation because our best efforts have produced only a detailed set of proposals. We need Cabinet to adopt the plan for implementation, so the greater the voice supporting an amended plan, the greater the chances of its adoption for implementation.
In advancing the discussion on the plan, there are a few issues to bear in mind – firstly, It is important to recognise that the plan covers a fairly broad remit and that it is indeed possible to debate and/or submit alternatives to one, or a set of proposals without really affecting the integrity of the entire plan; secondly, while the plan is focused on ‘destination 2030’, many of the proposals require an early implementation (in other words, we cannot attain the desired outcome by waiting until say a 2029 implementation) and thirdly, there needs to be experimentation with some of the proposals to facilitate a “learning by doing” and avoiding large-scale failures.
But, I want to move off the technical work in the thematic chapters for a moment to talk about what the NPC believes is necessary to drive the changes that we owe ourselves, and the next generations of South Africans. Essentially, we argue that an active state (whether this is real or imagined) and a passive citizenry will create more of what we now live through. So the biggest changes we propose are in the area of how society functions. Firstly, we are arguing for active citizenry in every aspect of society – be this in respect of schools, fighting crime, overseeing healthcare, requiring reports from and giving mandates to the three spheres of government - in all of this we need to work to ensure that citizens are actively engaged. The second feature of the change is to promote the voice of leadership throughout every aspect of society. The third focus area is on a capable state. These three aspects are dynamically linked and together determine the outcome.
Let me invite you to pause and consider what better outcomes there would be if these three elements featured more strongly in agriculture. How would active citizenry be nurtured? Who would be these active citizens? What would they do, and where would their voice emanate from? And what about leadership within the industry? Or in the district? Or in the sub-sector? Would this include established and newly-settled farmers? White and black? How will the sector be heard? And then, what about a capable state? What are your expectations of the government in agriculture? When is there too much? Or too little? In what aspects of agriculture is the engagement lacking? Now, I really did not intend to set you off – I am merely attempting to illustrate the kinds of changes that are possible if we apply our minds to the how, inasmuch as we do to the what. Also, it is worth repeating that that the proposal is premised on active partnerships.
Let me share with you some of the observations and proposals we make in the chapter on an “Inclusive Rural Economy”. The analysis and proposals cover agriculture, land reform, non-agricultural rural activity, food security and farm worker representation. The chapter explains how almost 1 million new jobs can be created in a fairly short period, of these 643 000 will be primary jobs. If we succeed at this, all aspects of the rural economy will be enlivened. In respect of agriculture, there are detailed proposals on the expansion of particular crops, and that this will require that we significantly increase the investment in irrigation to shift from 1.5 million hectares to 2 million hectares under irrigation; to facilitate market linkages, pay attention to securing tenure for communal farmers, it requires that we investigate different forms of financing and vesting private property rights to land reform beneficiaries so that they are not hamstrung by high debt burdens; and innovative new public-private partnerships.
On land reform, there are proposals that will require each district municipality with commercial farming land to convene a committee of stakeholders to develop approaches to land reform, including the identification of the 20% of commercial land in the district and to report up so that the financing issues can be resolved.
On non-agricultural activities, there are, for example, proposals to devote attention to unlocking power through value chains, and the development of niche markets.
In respect of food security, there are recommendations that propose that we maintain a positive trade balance as a key objective of food security; that we have separate, but supporting strategies for household food security; that we devote attention to the urban/rural food price gap; that we work to ensure that all South Africans increase their intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and a range of similar proposals.
On farm worker empowerment and labour relations, the emphasis is placed on partnership. Partnership only ever works if it is between two parties who respect each other and seriously consider the views of the partner. This calls for new approaches and new communication.
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to Agri SA to participate in finding solutions. Land Reform and inclusive agriculture are Constitutional imperatives. These are, I acknowledge, sensitive matters but their sensitivity compels us to address them. We can neither ride rough-shod over these sensitive matters, nor can we confine them to corridor whispers. As democrats, we are duty-bound to live out the spirit of our Constitution. This will require special effort from organized agriculture. It may appear counter-intuitive that enlarged participation, which may seem at first glance to diminish the gains of those presently involved, will actually enlarge both the rural sector and construct lasting peace – but it will!
But, to explore only the chapter on the rural economy is to treat the plan a bit as though it were a series of short stories. To fully appreciate the impact of the varied proposals on the future of agriculture, it would necessitate familiarity with, for example, the proposals on economic infrastructure that includes a detailed set of proposals on energy – that addresses sources, security, distribution and costs; it includes proposals on rural transport, both road and rail; there are proposals on the ICT sector for the extension and lowering the costs of broadband; and it includes a series of proposals on water. The chapter on improving education, innovation and skills is vital to the upgrading of the available skill set in farming, which will have to become increasingly knowledge-intensive. And, the chapter on community safety makes a series of proposals on safety and policing that, in hindsight, may actually say too little about the rural challenges.
I have merely skimmed the top of the surface to afford you some idea of just how detailed these proposals are. But, the proposals will remain incomplete without the consideration and input from organized agriculture. We are all conscious of the fact that the strengthening of partnerships in rural areas is essential for unlocking value, for creating a sense of inclusive decision-making, for personal safety and also, incidentally, for macro-economic stability by focusing on issues of the inter-relationship between food production, food security and the balance of payments. We need your considered input on all of these matters.
I want to conclude by appealing to Agri SA to assist in the finalisation of the plan. The entire plan merits your input. If this is too difficult organisationally, then I want to extract a commitment that you will make considered input into those areas that are essential for agriculture – without being presumptuous, I want to plead that we need to hear you on at least the following chapters:
• The economy and employment;
• Economic infrastructure
• Inclusive rural economy
• South Africa in the world, and
• Transforming society and uniting the country.
This is hardly a comprehensive list. It is the least that I want to plead for. Organised agriculture must be heard and we should do all in our power to unlock the trapped potential. Your input will make a significant difference!