We like the talk (again) but implementation is crucial
President Ramaphosa’s reconstruction and recovery plan provides useful direction for South Africa, however, it requires government to prove it can implement these crucial reforms.
We have seen many plans and, as is the case in the past, the problem lies in the inability of the government to implement. Many aspects of this plan have been promised before but failed to materialise. The President has shown he has united key social partners with his plan but must now ensure that government – including the lacklustre public service – plays its part in delivery. As a country, we now have our backs to the wall, and implementation can no longer be delayed.
Key to implementation is the money. We await the mid-term budget at the end of this month with interest, and hope to see the scarce funds we have being put to effective use for meaningful recovery. An unavoidable aspect of this involves reducing the bloated public sector workforce and wage bill, the political hot potato which the President skirted around in his speech.
As with any state spending, particularly urgent spending, we know the corruption vultures will circling, as was witnessed during the Covid-19 relief funds, much of which remains unresolved.
We welcome the plan’s focus on tackling corruption, but talk is cheap. We hope to see increased funding for the NPA and SARS in the mid-term budget, as these are crucial in ending corruption: the big prosecutions of state capture and blocking of industrial-scale tax evaders are still ahead. We also need to see government introduce greater civil oversight and transparency in all procurement processes.
Strong, effective and rapid action against corruption is essential to build business confidence and encourage investment and government should embrace the input from civil society in this regard.
On state-owned entities, we welcome the promise (again) that these will be rationalised. It is time to let go of failed SOEs like SAA and Denel and for the state to become an enabler of competitive industries, rather than a participant. We need to see the most talented CEOs and boards appointed to watch over our country’s assets, mentor upcoming leaders and execute the President’s plans.
The huge infrastructure investment sounds attractive, but projects need to be bankable for investors to pursue these. Business needs a clear regulatory framework, policy stability, transparency and zero political interference. We would like to see banks contributing by restructuring existing government and SOE debt, lowering interest rates and providing better terms for the infrastructure programme.
The mass public employment programmes are welcomed as they will do much towards alleviating the misery of poverty. But these are programmes subject to corruption and must be watched, particularly at local government level. Support for SMMEs, including cutting red tape, will do more to create sustainable jobs in the medium term.
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy need to engage with civil society and business to remove the blockages that make it difficult to do business in South Africa. Here we refer to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications and other areas that have become archaic and cumbersome. The use of technology and digital processes is now urgently required in all sectors of the state to improve efficiency and block out corruption and maladministration.
We welcome the linking of deliverables to deadlines in the plan and would like to see this in greater detail. Will there be consequences for non-action?
The state needs to pick an economic vision and stick to it. If the National Development Plan is the plan, then government needs to get everyone on board – the public service, labour, business and civil society – so that we can work together as a country to achieve that vision through proper implementation and execution. Government has struggled for years to achieve laudable goals and cannot do this without the committed involvement of all sectors.
A soundbite (1 min 34 sec) with comment from Julius Kleyhans is here.