Address by Minister for National Planning, Trevor Manuel on the launch of the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Honourable Speaker;
His Excellency President Zuma;
Honourable Deputy President Motlanthe;
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members.

Today we table in this House a Green Paper on National Strategic Planning and a policy paper on performance monitoring and evaluation. On 5 June 2009 and again on 24 June 2009 in the debate on the budget vote of the Presidency, both Minister Chabane and I provided a detailed introduction to the work of our Ministries. We set out the rationale for the establishment of our functional areas, noting that the key reason for the establishment of these two Ministries in the Presidency is to improve the overall effectiveness of government in achieving our short-, medium- and long-term objectives.

Today, admittedly slightly later than we had envisaged, we return to this House to present more details on what we envisage and how we plan to proceed. This time, we table papers that have been extensively canvassed in the executive, including discussions with provincial premiers, metro mayors, the leadership of SALGA and the leaders of all political parties in this House.

The Green Paper on National Strategic Planning is a discussion document that sets out the rationale for planning and the institutional structures, processes and outputs of the national planning process. The Green Paper is not a plan for the country. It must be seen as the nuts and bolts - the how part of developing a plan or plans. Also critical is to understand that the outputs of the planning function are not just a single document in the form of a national plan, but a variety of products ranging from annual programmes of action and a medium-term strategic framework, to research papers on strategic issues and matters to do with spatial dynamics of our development path.

We should also emphasise at the outset that the planning function is not conceptualised as a bookish and pedantic process - with bespectacled men and women poring over tomes and computer screens in their offices - to emerge, abracadabra, with eureka moments about solutions to problems our country faces. Strategic planning is a dynamic process of engagement with society, government departments, provinces, municipalities and a myriad of stakeholders in our country. To the extent that the vision for our country should inspire and inform the actions of all citizens, so should its development derive from active citizen participation.

Honourable Speaker, even though we dealt in some detail previously on why South Africa needs a plan, today's input would be amiss if I didn't repeat some of the key reasons for why we are setting up the capacity in the Presidency to drive national strategic planning. After 15 years of democracy, we take comfort in the successes that we have achieved. Not only have we set up important institutions of democracy and governance but we have also improved the lives of millions of people through a growing economy and improving access to basic services. However, we are also keenly aware of the overwhelming evidence that we have not yet achieved our key objectives of transforming our society, our economy, our space and our communities. Poverty, inequality and hardship remain stark realities across the length and breadth of our country.

We have made progress, yes; but we still have a long way to go in eradicating the effects of Apartheid on the lives of all of our people.

And so we have to do more and better. Improved national strategic planning would provide a basis for increased policy coherence, better coordination from the centre of government and clear priorities upon which we can act as one: in budgeting, implementing programmes and policies and monitoring the outcomes of our work. Furthermore, a national plan would help focus our collective mind on the long-term challenges facing our country and provide clear frameworks to take the tough decisions today that would enable us to realise a better country tomorrow.

Over time, all governments develop institutional rigidities that need to, from time to time, be shaken. The development of a coherent strategic plan at national level is also about breaking through the walls that we erect between departments, spheres, agencies and institutions. Our Constitution implores us to work together in pursuit of the ideals it so eloquently articulates. The Green Paper on planning describes an institutional framework that aims to get us away from the perspective of where we each work alone, striving to achieve what is otherwise an outcome also dependent on the input of others in government and indeed society at large. We need to elevate the discussion and the style of work to what needs to be done collectively and variously to get our country working. This approach has been welcomed by all metro mayors, SALGA, provincial premiers and government ministers.

The question 'what are we planning for' has arisen frequently in discussions leading to the finalisation of the Green Paper. Our Constitution sets out the raison d'^tre of our government and the South African state per se. It is to build a prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist democracy, where the opportunities available to each South African are free from the shadow of history. When we attempt to describe the South Africa we desire in say 20 years time, it is remarkable how similar the aspirations of all South Africans are. A long term vision can serve as a unifying tool to get us to confront the more difficult challenges we face in the immediacy of current pursuits.

A long term vision and plan for the country is the first output described in the Green Paper. A National Planning Commission (NPC), chaired by the Minister in the Presidency for National Planning and consisting of commissioners from outside of government is proposed to develop the national plan. The Green Paper emphasises that Cabinet is the seat of policy in the executive and hence the National Planning Commission's role is advisory. The NPC, unencumbered by the constraints of individual Ministries and not beholden to short-term interests, can help develop a national plan that is genuinely long-term in nature, technically consistent and reflective of the broader aspirations of society. The national plan will then go through a process within government before it is adopted by Cabinet in session with representatives of other spheres of government. A Ministerial Committee on Planning is proposed to provide collective political support to the Minister for Planning and to help process outputs of the Commission before they are tabled in Cabinet. It is envisaged that the President and Deputy President will be ex officio members of both the Commission and Ministerial Committee.

The Green Paper recognises that the five-yearly Medium Term Strategic Framework is a document of the Executive, drawing on the electoral mandate of the ruling party. Similarly, the annual programmes of action are processed and adopted by the Executive. It is proposed in the Green Paper that the process whereby these two important documents are put together is coordinated by the Minister in the Presidency responsible for National Planning. Again, the Ministerial Committee on Planning will provide political input into this process, drawing on the work of Clusters, departments, state-owned enterprises, provinces and municipalities.

Planning is a dynamic function that requires constant updating, taking on board new data, research and perspectives to nudge policy to achieve better longer-term outcomes. There will be a need for continuous research on cross-cutting topics that affect our medium- and long-term development plans such as demographic change, climate change, energy sources, water security, food security and long term defence capabilities. The Minister for Planning working with the National Planning Commission and relevant Clusters and departments will draw on the excellent research capacity that exists in the country to produce a series of baseline studies and research papers on these types of cross-cutting topics that would help shift policy to take account of long-term trends and objectives.

Apartheid planning was effective at distorting the country's spatial geography, with major economic and social consequences. The creation of dormitory townships far from places of work and the bantustan system is a legacy that will not go away on its own. It requires a concerted plan, informed by a spatial planning framework. One of the functions of the planning process is to develop high level spatial development perspectives to guide infrastructure investment and other socio-economic programmes.

A small, professional secretariat, to be called the National Planning Secretariat is to be established in the Presidency to support the work of the Minister, the Commission, the Ministerial Committee and government in general in relation to planning. This secretariat will serve at the institutional centre for strategic planning in government and will work closely with technical experts in institutions such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the CSIR, HSRC, universities and other think tanks.

Honourable Speaker, we do not envisage a top down planning process through which the Planning Ministry employs thousands of people who review every plan by every department, province or municipality. We envisage a dynamic and iterative process of strategic engagement that shapes the plans and resource allocations of government departments, spheres, state owned enterprises and agencies through the provision of clear, coherent priorities.

The planning function would not, on its own, be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the national plan. Cabinet would collectively be responsible for implementation. The Minister, the National Planning Commission and the National Planning Secretariat, working closely with the Minister responsible for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and his administration, would from time to time report on progress in implementing government plans and strategic frameworks and advise government on gaps in implementing key priorities.

A long-term plan for South Africa is only implementable if it is technically sound, coherent and has broad societal buy-in. It has to avoid the risk of being, like motherhood and apple pie, full of broad niceties[A1] that everyone agrees to. It has to go beyond that by tackling the key challenges and confronting the difficult trade-offs we face as a society. For this to work, a national plan has to find resonance beyond party political structures and even beyond government. The institution best placed to facilitate such broad societal input into a planning process is Parliament. It is for this reason that robust engagement, taking into account the views of broader stakeholders, should be led by Parliament. For a start, this Green Paper, while not a national plan, should also be subjected to broad consultation and scrutiny.

Honourable Speaker, we have a unique opportunity, under the leadership of President Zuma, to change the way in which we work, to raise our game in terms of planning and performance and to achieve better results as a people. Within government, we have an opportunity to break the institutional rigidities that seem to have cemented over the past fifteen years. Such change is critical if we are to make a meaningful impact on people's lives in this five-year term, given the economic uncertainties we face and the resource constraints confronting us. Above all, we will need to do so informed by who and where we are as a nation; and who and where we want to be in more than a decade.

The development of a long-term national plan and better strategic planning in general would help align government's efforts towards achieving the type of society that we all desire for in the future. This Green Paper is an attempt to open up the discussion on the institutional arrangements - that how and what - of national strategic planning. We urge all South Africans to become part of the process of debate and engagement on this important initiative. We look forward to Parliament's leadership role in structuring such an engagement.

We remain fervently of the view that working together towards a clear set of goals we can do more to raise the quality of life of all of our people.

Thank you.
[A1]Not the right word. Maybe commitments or values or gestures.