Govt ready to roll out infrastructure plan

Friday, April 13, 2012

Johannesburg - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says government is ready to roll out the country's infrastructure plan announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year.

Government on Friday unveiled its infrastructure plan for the country, which it hopes to take to the provinces and various other stakeholders for implementation.

It lists 17 strategic integrated projects that cut across from rail, road, schools and hospitals construction. The projects cover a range of economic and social infrastructure across all nine provinces with emphasis on poorer regions.

Investment in rail, water pipelines, energy generation and transmission infrastructure have been identified for Limpopo. Officials say the emphasis here will be on coal and platinum mining for local use and export, with the region's rail capacity expected to be extended to Mpumalanga power stations.

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, who presented the project plans to delegates who attended the Provincial and Local Government Infrastructure Conference in Boksburg, said the work was now being aligned with human settlements planning and with skills development as an area of emphasis.

"The infrastructure programme has two components; there is a component that we are implementing now and construction is commencing. The second part deals with plans that have not been implemented because ... of lack of clarity over which sphere of government has the responsibility and ... lack of coherent business plans to unlock the finance from Treasury for these projects," said Patel.

However, he said government was worried about the insufficient number of engineers which could threaten the speedy implementation of some of the projects. Several strategies were being explored to address this including entering into deals with universities and Further Education and Training colleges to ensure the expanded supply of engineers to the economy.

"The broader principle is that as our infrastructure programme gathers pace, one of the key bottlenecks we are going to hit is the shortage of engineers, so we have to now ensure that there is appropriate development of new skills commensurate with the ambition of our plan... We think it's about time we encourage the number of engineers to come back to South Africa through the programme of work we have for them."

Patel said with regard to the infrastructure programme that was commencing across the country, the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission - chaired by the President - was working on guidelines to ensure clear coordination among different provinces as they embark on various infrastructure programmes.

Motlanthe said government would engage the private sector on the plan, adding that there was the possibility of mutually enriching partnerships between government and the private corporate world.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the plan identifies the need to strengthen the logistics and transport corridor between South Africa's main industrial hubs including beefing up access to Durban's export and import facilities. In the Western Cape, work will focus on strengthening maritime capacity in the Saldanha-Nothern Cape linked region.

Energy projects will focus on supporting sustainable green energy initiatives nationally through a diverse range of clean energy options as outlined in the country's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010. Through the IRP, it is envisaged that electricity distribution would be expanded to address historical imbalances.

On improvement of social infrastructure, the plan notes that several new hospitals will be built while existing ones are set to be refurbished in preparation for the National Health Insurance Scheme.

About 122 nursing colleges will be revamped, while 90 new schools will be built this year to replace inappropriate structures.