Speaking at a recent Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) function in Refilwe township, near Cullinan, north of Pretoria, Manuel said there was still much work to be done to advance a democratic programme that delivered tangible services.
“It is not enough to say the economy is growing at five per cent, or more, when the gains of that are only in the lives of a few people. We want measurable change in the lives of all of our people,” Manuel asserted, adding that there were lists of issues unaddressed in every aspect of community life.
To achieve this, Manuel said government had to hone in on three priorities.
Firstly, it had to “push ahead” from the current levels of growth by dealing with the current constraints.
“If we want to push it ahead, we have to understand what is not in place,” the Minister argued, lamenting, in particular, the poor institutional frameworks at municipal level.
With the help of organisations such as the DBSA, which was now fully aligned with the State’s development goals, systems had to be put in place to support institution building within local government.
A key measure would be a closing of the gap between the bank’s approvals, which stood at over R8-billion in 2006/7, and disbursements, which stood at about R3,7-billion, while continuing to shift its risk appetite towards the poorer municipalities.
“But that risk appetite also needs to be absorbed and the capacities have to be in place to absorb the funding,” Manuel stressed.
DBSA chairperson Jay Naidoo concurred, asserting that market and institutional failure was undermining the ability of poorly resourced municipalities to engage in viable borrowing.
“Part of our challenge as DBSA is to improve the absorptive capacity through initi-atives such as Siyenza Manje (we are doing it now) . . . which has recruited close to 100 retired engineers, project managers and financial experts, who are paired with young professionals to improve the absorptive capacity of the municipalities so they can begin taking loans from ourselves and other banks,” Naidoo reported.
He added that capacity building remained a major focus and that the DBSA was planning to spend close to R1,5-billion in this area in the years ahead.
Manuel’s second priority for government was to ensure that the base of beneficiaries was broadened.
This, he said, meant that taxes must be used to build schools and clinics, deliver electricity and replace the ‘bucket system’ with proper sanitation. “We must build more roads, ensure there is proper public transport and make communities safer. We must set a target and say, ‘We want our mothers and daughters to be able to walk around at night without fear’.”
The third priority was to identify the constraints to even faster growth. Specifically mentioned were limitations on electricity supply and the lack of skills.
He called for a “better partnership” to support the democratic programme, which, he said, would come under strain if there was no visible sign of improvement at the 3 152 schools that don’t have water, the 8 470 schools that have only pit latrines, and the 1 532 schools that have no toilet facilities at all.
“We must be able to fix this and fix this very soon, because, if we don’t, the quality of education will take a knock,” Manuel said, stressing the need for active parental involvement in education.
“We are conscious that develop- ment is not automatic . . . development is also not a snapshot, but rather a process. And, ultimately, it is a policy that has to be underpinned by measurable improvements,” Manuel concluded.