Minister in The Presidency Jeff Radebe confirmed on Thursday that the National Planning Commission (NPC) would be retained alongside moves to institutionalise long-term planning within government.
Speaking at the formal release of the five-year Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), for the period 2014 to 2019, Radebe indicated that the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, which was being created within The Presidency, would become government’s main planning node.
However, the NPC would also be retained, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was the commission’s inaugural deputy chairperson, having already taken over the chairpersonship from Trevor Manuel, who stepped down as a Minister following the May 7 election. Radebe was now the NPC’s deputy chairperson.
“The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation is now responsible for the strategic plans of government and ensuring that this institutionalisation actually happens,” Radebe said.
A unit would be created within the department to drive the planning function and the NPC secretariat would be absorbed into department.
The 20-year “National Development Plan (NDP) train” had left the station in 2012 and Radebe insisted it was moving at “high speed”, with the MTSF having been aligned with the vision and objectives of the plan.
Business personality and NPC commissioner Bobby Godsell, who attended the MTSF launch in Pretoria, pointed out that the commissioners had been appointed for a five-year term and that new commissioners should be appointed in May 2015.
Godsell said the NPC was “delighted at the centrality” of the plan within government’s programme, but he also stressed that the NDP had been written for society. “So, we are also actively seeking to engage business, labour and civil society and we would hope that they would be taking the plan and it’s objectives and its vision as seriously as is our government.”
The NDP had been widely canvassed, but had also been heavily criticised, most notably by elements within the governing tripartite alliance, particularly by unions falling under the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Business, on the other hand, had broadly embraced the plan, but remained skeptical as to whether all departments and Minister’s were firmly behind its implementation.
Continuing with his metaphor, Radebe extended an invitation to those “still standing on the sidelines to board this train” and “contribute towards remaking their country into one that is many times better than the present”.
The NDP, he said, had the full backing of the African National Congress and government, while the “MTSF is intended to enable Cabinet to monitor progress on the implementation of the NDP”, which is designed to reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Where “contradictions” arose between the plan and government policy – as had emerged in the area of nuclear energy (with the plan urging caution and government reaffirming its commitment to the deployment of 9 600 MW of nuclear energy) – these would be “resolved as we go along” in consultation with stakeholders.
“It’s our vision for 2030 and we need to make it work,” Radebe said, indicating that the NDP would be roll-out in phases, as government did not have the resources to implement the full plan immediately.
The MTSF for 2014-2019 was structured around 14 priority outcomes which cover the following focus areas identified in the NDP: quality basic education; improving health outcomes; reducing crime; creating jobs; developing the skills and infrastructure required by the economy; rural development; sustainable human settlements; effective and efficient local government and public service; the environment; international relations; social development; and social cohesion and nation building.
In the areas of the economy, the MTSF contains actions designed to grow the productive sectors of manufacturing, mining and agriculture, while diversifying the economy and reducing economic concentration.
It also highlights the need for more rapid private sector investment to stimulate growth, noting that the private sector accounted for 70% of production and employment.
“The MTSF includes actions aimed achieving an economic environment that encourages business investment and rewards competitiveness, especially in sectors that can catalyse longer term growth and job creation,” Radebe said, while highlighting the goal of increasing employment and reducing unemployment to 14% by 2019.
Also stressed was the NDP aspiration of increasing investment levels to at least 25% of gross domestic product (GDP) and public investment levels of 10% of GDP.
Over the five-year period, actions would also be pursued to support a strengthening of regional integration and significantly increasing intra-African trade.
“There is a target for securing foreign direct investment of R230-billion worth of investments by 2019,” Radebe said, adding that the creation of the ‘New Development Bank’, which was officially approved for establishment by the governments of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at the recent sixth Brics Summit in Fortaleza, should help support that goal.
He added that the investments confirmed at the US-Africa Summit would also help in creating the infrastructure and productive capacity to improve intra-regional trade.
“The MTSF defines the strategic objectives and targets of government during the next five years. It is the frame of reference outlining the government’s main priorities underpinning the strategic direction of government over the next five years.”