NPC prepares to wrap up hearings

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marapyane - The National Planning Commission (NPC) is hoping to attract more public views on the country's diagnostic report as commissioners wrap up their provincial visits this week.

NPC chairperson and National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel on Wednesday led another delegation of commissioners to Mpumalanga province, where he discussed the diagnostic report with representatives from the provincial government, including Premier David Mabuza, the business sector and civil organisations.

The document, drawn up after a year of intensive work by the NPC, had been taken to at least five provinces so far, where locals were encouraged to give inputs in preparation for the first national planning report to be tabled to Cabinet in November.

It identifies nine key problems facing the country, namely: poor education, divided communities, uneven public service performance, an unsustainable resource-intensive economy, a high disease burden, unemployment, existing spatial patterns, crumbling infrastructure and corruption.

The commission said it had decided to visit the different parts of the country not only to attract public views on the report but establish the unique and individual needs of each province to be incorporated into the national plan.

On Wednesday, discussions in Mpumalanga centred mainly on education, job creation and health care, with Marapyane, a poor rural area with dusty roads, having been chosen to host the hearings.

"We've seen from around the world that development can never just happen in cities. You may have industries in cities and they are part of the development we want, but you have to broaden your focus. Part of what we need in South Africa is rural development and actually raising living standards," Manuel said.

Despite being highly industrialised, Mpumalanga is among the poorest provinces in the country and the only one without a university, with Manuel saying agriculture and rural development will play a crucial role in developing provinces like this in the next 30 years.

"We highlight a lot of issues in the diagnostic and part of what we raised is understanding agriculture in the context of rural development and there's already some work the Planning Commission has commissioned that will allow us to engage on opportunities for employment in rural areas," said Manuel.

He said South Africa would also be looking at different models used around the world, including Japan, to ensure that countryside areas were part of national development strategy. The country's education needed to be focused and directed towards achieving the scarce skills that South Africa needs to compete with other nations.

Manuel added: "What's also important about the education system is that everything is now far more complex. Agriculture, for instance, now is more technical. A lot of it is computer driven."

Other concerns were that Mpumalanga, like the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, was losing many of its young people who migrate to the bigger cities, mainly in Gauteng, in search of better opportunities. This had an adverse impact on growth and development seen mainly in rural towns.

While Mabuza blamed economic reasons for the problem, he did acknowledge that the outcomes in the province's education were not satisfactory, despite millions of rands pumped into the system every year.

"We lose a lot of young people because there are many problems. The rural nature of our province also presents a lot of problems ... Our approach now as we move forward would be to confront the problem and see how we can turn it around and I'm hoping through the national planning, we will get there," he said.