by Rob Wilkie, CFO Softline and Sage AAMEA

Rob Wilkie

Rob Wilkie

In about May 2010, President Zuma set up a National Planning Commission (NPC) under the leadership of Trevor Manual. The brief was to take an independent and critical view of the country (Task 1) and to draw up a vision and plan that would take South Africa to 2030 (Task 2). The primary objective of the plan was to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality; these being the two biggest problems facing the nation.

Task 1 was completed in June 2011 with the presentation of a diagnostic report describing the countries 9 most significant challenges. It’s not hard to guess what these were:

  1. A sub-standard quality of education for the majority of black learners. More than 25,000 schools dysfunctional;
  2. Too few South Africans are employed. Official unemployment at 26%;
  3. A public health system in distress. Total deaths in the country doubled in the past 10 years and life expectancy now 49 years.
  4. A divided society. Divisions in all societies still persisting 17 years after the abolishment of apartheid.
  5. Poor public service performance with leadership and skills deficits, corruption and bribery, political interference and erosion of accountability.
  6. Informal settlements that marginalise the poor. Massive divisions in settlement patterns being a legacy of apartheid.
  7. Inadequate infrastructure with generation of missing investment in roads, rail, ports, electricity, water sanitation and public transport.
  8. A growth path highly dependent on natural resource exploitation but unsustainable in a world seeking to protect the environment.
  9. Corruption undermining state legitimacy and accountability.

Task 2 is not yet complete and is by far the most difficult part of the plan.

In the 2012/2013 budget Speech, government gave much attention to two of the nine key issues identified, infrastructure and job creation. Infrastructure investment expansion was listed as a priority with approved and budgeted plans of R845 bn announced. There was also a particular focus on the unemployed and an additional R4.8 bn was allocated to an expanded public works programme and new Jobs Fund.

We know that government’s strength is in policy making and not in the execution and implementation thereof. We also know that even if government could build schools, it can’t make children go to school; government can pay social grants but cannot create the necessary jobs required. Government needs parents, teachers and the business community to do this. For the National development Plan to succeed it therefore needs all of us to be active citizens – government, business and communities.

The Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao was asked how China could possibly deal with its poverty and environmental problems given their immense scale. He answered by saying that when you multiply a problem by 1,3 bn (people) it is insurmountable, but when you divide it by 1,3 bn, it is easily solved.