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NDP on the back seat

Date posted: 22.01.2015 | Author: Harry Bovensmann

Team South Africa has arrived in Davos and is geared to promote South Africa as a premier investment destination, armed with the National Development Plan (NDP) to again try to convince foreign investors to invest in the South African success story.

Investment bait

It is however not crystal clear what Zuma’s investment message will be. He stood on the steps of his presidential jet and proudly announced that Team South Africa has a clear economic roadmap in the NDP. The problem is that Zuma also used the NDP as his investment bait last year… and in 2013.  Foreign investors may look for something new and a bit more concrete than a strategy document, especially one that the government appears to only pay only lip service to.

Despite the acceptance of the NDP as the blueprint for economic development at the ANC’s policy conference in 2012, very little of it has been implemented. One of the reasons may be the strong resistance by Cosatu and other trade unions to the plan.

For example, nothing has come from proposed labour market reform and virtually no ground has been broken on the infrastructure projects that were detailed in the plan. Other apparent failures include projects to increase exports and local beneficiation, increased support for small businesses, the reduction of regulations in industries where the private sector is the main investor and the improvement of efficiency in the public service.

The plan also calls for greater collaboration and an improvement in relations between government, labour and the private sector. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in this arena: labour relations and the levels of trust between these stakeholders are at an all time low.

Electricity crisis

The local economy has also taken a step back since the launch of the plan. Unemployment is higher, economic growth has stalled and it appears that little is being done to curb corruption and improve government efficiency.

The economic ramifications of the electricity supply crisis grow bigger by the day. It seems unlikely that the situation will improve in the short to medium term.

What is more worrying is the seeming change in the government mindset. In 2012, a confident government was determined to craft a long-term future for the country. It had 2030 in mind. These days the attention is firmly focused on dousing short-term political fires – no time to tackle with the future.

Off the radar

Apparently, government shows no appetite for the implementation of the NDP. It has virtually disappeared from the radar screen. In fact, some may even argue that the NDP has become just another acronym, a bit like GEAR, RDP and Nepad.

Zuma’s opening address at the ANC’s Manguang elective conference in 2012 referred to the NDP no fewer than 14 times during his address, and committed his party to the swift implementation thereof. It was one of the highlights of the conference. In stark contrast, he only referred to the NDP twice during his 75 minute State of the Nation address in June last year.

The NDP has clearly dropped off the top of the agenda.

Back on the agenda?

It is good that the NDP is back on the international agenda. Hopefully it will be back on the national agenda too.

The plan is a good one, but to succeed the president will have to take unpopular decisions and force through reforms, which will more than upset his union and communist friends. Within the current political environment, this is unlikely.

Hopefully the NDP will not (once again) be left behind in the seat pocket of Zuma’s plane when he returns from Davos.

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