Transcript: Media briefing by Minister in The Presidency: National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Presenter: Trevor Manuel, Minister of the National Planning Commission
Panel: Vusi Mavimbela, DG in The Presidency

Statement by Minister Trevor Manuel

On the 12th of August last year Cabinet approved the release of the Green Paper on the National Planning Commission for consultation. Then we embarked on this process of consultation in Parliament, both Houses. In fact on the National Assembly an adhoc committee was set up to deal with this. And then the NCOP the Standing Committee on Finance dealt with it.

Arising from that process a number of recommendations were made because what Parliament did was to take evidence from many different groups on the Green Paper. When we considered what Parliament said and it's very important that both Houses noted the Green Paper. In noting it, it allowed Cabinet to take this thing forward in the spirit of an engagement with Parliament. But if Parliament formally adopted the Green Paper then it would end to firm up that Paper. So we took forward the recommendations and Cabinet considered this.

In December last year Cabinet approved that Green Paper. You will receive copies of this Green Paper today; it will also be available on The Presidency's website. What's important about the Green Paper you have now, if compared with the one we had last year, this one is far more focused. The one we had last year dealt with a range of issues that are part of the Presidency's coordinating function, they deal with matters such as the Medium Term Strategic Framework and so on.

The revised Green Paper after having considered the views of Parliament and various other inputs is focused on the work of the National Planning Commission. It's very important to remind ourselves that some of these functions are internal to Government they are executive in Government and the National Planning Commission has no executive powers. So the Green Paper is different and far more focused on what the National Planning Commission will do and how it will function and very importantly also it deals with the support structures that the NPC will have.

In terms of what the NPC will do, the first output will clearly be to draft a long term vision and strategic plan for the country. And the second set of issues and both of these are constant between the two, the first incarnation of the Green Paper that was published and this one, is a series of fundamentally important keymatic issues. Papers on energy, water, and climate change, on population development, on all manner of issues.

They list as set out in the Green Paper, and that will become much of the daily bread of what the National Planning Commission does. But very importantly the National Planning Commission has to contribute to what Government does in the long term. Issues of vision, ensuring that there is a consistency of policy that it's easier for the executive to take decision to so seek a series of policy changes and so on. The Planning Commission will do that without getting in the way of Cabinet to take the decisions.

It's an important issue to understand structurally because the Constitution creates executive power. It says that the executive power vest with the President and the President exercises this executive power with Members of the Cabinet. And you can by creating a National Planning Commission take away that very important function that the Constitution gives to the Cabinet.

Working through these arrangements because we want very smart and committed people in the National Planning Commission. And we have that in the Cabinet working through this is an intermediation that would vest with The Presidency clearly which is why our DG Mr. Mavimbela wants to understand just how this will all fit together. In the structure now the chair of the National Planning Commission is also a Member of Cabinet. We've said and we've demonstrated that Parliament would play a very important role. Parliament would receive input, would be that reference point of ideas from all manner of individuals and groups on recommendations of the National Planning Commission.

We need to get the show on the road, we know that some people are smart enough to go into a room and lock themselves in for six days and produce a kind of vision for the country, we think that the National Planning Commission would have to undertake something that's a lot more elaborate. So we think that it would take about 18 months to produce the first report. But if we want that in 18 months we really must get the show on the road. And part of the reason for you being here today is to tell you that the show is on the road.

Today we initiate a process whereby we call for nominations of South Africans to serve on the National Planning Commission. That's a big step and it's a very important one. Those of you who would have observed President Zuma wearing his other hat, his political party hat on Saturday last week in Kimberley, spoke about the importance of getting these issues done. Today we are doing 2 things, we begin that process where we will call for nominations so we will have a pool of people to select the 20 commissioners and again a reminder, the commissioners will be appointed essentially for a period of 5yrs but they will not be full time in that capacity, it's a part time function. And the second thing we are doing is to invite applications for this very important secretariat to serve the National Planning Commission.

The Secretariat will also be based in The Presidency and will have to support the National Planning Commission with technical, professional and administrative support. And what we are looking for in the secretariat, highly competent, experienced professionals. In a range of discipline that can make a contribution, we are open. People join the Public Service because they think of the pension benefits. We are more than happy to consider a range of flexible options where people will have established careers or have made very strong contributions where they find themselves would like to join for a limited period of time. All of those options will be considered so that we have a very dynamic group of hardworking smart South Africans who can support this process that will clearly generate a lot of momentum to produce the vision but also technical work on the range of areas. The list that you will see in the Green Paper suggests that a list we can't pre-empt what the National Planning Commission would want to cover. The list may be broader; they may decide to narrow down some of these issues.

What's also very interesting is the step we are taking now in respect of both the National Planning Commission and the Secretariat and that is to make the application forms available online so that people can apply online. We need to move with some speed, in fact so much speed that you will see in the press statement we want to pin down the President, we will open the nominations now until the 10th of February. A reminder, Parliament opens on the 11th of February, and then we are making a public commitment to try and get all these processes resolved so that by the end of March the President ought to be in a position to announce the 20 members of the National Planning Commission. That's it, this morning we are saying that the show is on the road, the President has made this call very strongly last Saturday and the wheels are turning. And that is clearly good for the vision of Government, the development state, the planning capacity in the developmental state and how we bring all of that together.



Journalist: Minister you say that this followed the process of consultation and also parliamentary processes. What kind of reaction are you expecting on this Green Paper because if you remember the first Green Paper drew a reaction from various sectors now this time around based on the fact that people were consulted what kind of reaction are your expecting.

Trevor Manuel: Thank you for the question look I think the process that was conducted by the by the two committees in Parliament was actually very thorough and we can demonstrate that we truly considered all the issues that have been raised in that parliamentary process. There are some of them that are very different to accommodate just as an example one of the NGO deals with health issue now they would ask for representation for themselves but it's not possible to look at issues like that but we have considered all of the issues and I think what is very important about this is that by taking this matter into parliamentary process as we did and we tabled the Green Paper in Parliament on the 8th of December last year it was in fact brought into the open and people must then know that kind of arrangement would obviously take precedence.

I think there is a fair amount of support now, there might be interesting debates how eventually these twenty people are put together we will never you couldn't satisfy the needs of 48.5 million people by selecting twenty. There will always be differences about these issues but what is very important is that we understand that elected Government where the executive power is vested in the Cabinet and set out in the Constitution which still have responsibility there are going to be a series of issues that have to be properly intermediated but this is how we take these issues forward.

Journalist: I was wondering if you could highlight the change of focus or emphasis you refer to comparing the old Green Paper and the new one we just got.

Journalist: How much are these part time commissioners going to be paid? Is there going to be a sort of commission gravy train is there going to be cars and houses whatever?

Trevor Manuel: Mike I thought there was going to be some change in 2010 Michael but old dogs and new tricks don't go together very frequently. Peter I am saying that the key issues and if you go back but many of the structures that Green Paper deals with are Cabinet related issues it deals with the responsibility for the medium term framework. It deals with matters relating to the program of action and now what we have done is to separate all of those issues so that we now focus on the functions of the National Planning Commission. What we haven't dealt with now but issues that will be resolved in the fullness of time is what such a long term plan will cover. What is really important is when one looks at the plans of the different countries drafted by their National Planning Commission there are vast ranges of differences depending partly on how the Planning Commission function is located al

so those issues that are determined by the needs of a particular country.
I have mentioned before that the 11th five year plan that India is now working from it takes them to 2012 is in three volumes so the content issues I think is saying look at the Green Paper the Green Paper is now trimmed down and one of the big debates that go forward now is how you put together this team of commissioners and then the content work that would have to be done. Michael you know can I plead with you to get rid of the cynicism. I really want to make a plea to you Michael Hamlin take the cynicism out of the equation. We are looking for committed South Africans, smart people who have an established reputation we need some of their time and we will remunerate them accordingly. It's not an executive function they are taking so all of the epithets that you would seek to attach to this I would ask you to drop them and I will watch I-Net Bridge to see that you respond positively. Thank you.

Journalist: You mentioned you want smart people with established reputations and the nominations would be available online. Could you give us what on those nomination forms are the criteria to find these smart people.

Trevor Manuel: I think at this stage the first stab is an open nomination process so if Denise sees herself as being capable and competent she can walk over to Kgomotso and say Kgomotso would you be kind enough to nominate me. In that discussion between Denise and Kgomotso you would say what is your area of expertise and what would be the issues that distinguish Denise above others and those are the kind of issues we would look for. It's going to be an enormous challenge to whittle this thing down through the process but we have said before we don't set our sights on a committee of twenty retired university professors. We are not in fact looking for many retired people but we are looking for people who have day jobs they may be professors, engineers or have something else that occupies them and would make this commitment to development in the country one of the Planning Commission's that has the most developed website's happens to be the Indian Planning Commission and all of the people who serve there I mean you can check their cv's and I don't even know if they get remunerated but they make this as a commitment as to the development of India and they are drawn from a wide range of experiences and expertise and that I think is magic because part of what we must try and achieve with the National Planning Commission is to so construct the commission made up of that very limited number of people so that all South Africans feel that it would represent their views in some view so the legitimacy of the commission is also born from that.

Journalist: Is there any critical expertise that you identified to what exactly you want on the NPC.

Trevor Manuel: One of the areas that is quite important is that branch of work called future studies now future studies deals with a range of issues it deals with demographic trends if you look at the way in which questions have been raised in the draft Green Paper. How many South Africans will there be in twenty years time where will they be what work will they do what expertise would they have. Would they have water to drink, would they have power to use in their domestic or industrial environment? What would be the transport links between where they are as they do these things how much carbon dioxide would they emit as they proceed. When they return from their workplaces and they go back to communities what would shape the dynamics of the communities where they are. Now future studies is as much as art form as it is hard science but you have to be able to develop these trends and understand where you can impact now there are particular issues that are significant in South Africa one of them for instance is the speed at which people leave rural areas is that a good or bad thing.

When people go to cities they don't wait for houses to be constructed they find vacant land and erect structures and form a community clearly these kind of things have to change. If we take a long view of the economy let's assume we wanted a knowledge based economy there must be certain signals we ought to provide now to the education system that begins to changes. We can't lament matric results the changes must happen and the changes must be shape by some analysis of where we want to take the country. If you accept and I think it's commonly accepted that the education system doesn't provide the kinds of skills that the economy today needs then where do you make the changes. Do you make the changes in an analysis of how much time people spent in schools the President last week called for seven hours of teaching a day. Do you make the change in respect of the skills based of educators do we take educators and retrain them do you need to strengthen school governance what are the issues that actually makes a difference and how do you get there. Once people leave school with the necessary competencies can they be absorbed into a further education training system. Are our FET colleges well positioned there a series of questions that arise how do we ramp up the apprenticeship system. Part of apprenticeship training is ensuring that you are attached to an artisan for instance but if you have too few artisans how do you begin to change this. What are the links that you are able to construct as you take these issues forward an interesting issue that arises both in the United States and here, President Obama has made a commitment to many green jobs but the US don't have the array of artisan skills that are required here in the light of what happened twelve months ago on Eskom and the power outages.

It was 24 months ago, we have made a commitment to having many more solar water geysers in houses but if you want those then you need plumbers to do it because if you don't have competent plumbers these things tend to fall through the ceilings and then people are very unhappy and they don't want this green energy. But South Africa in the past two or three decades has produced few plumbers now we are not talking about more people who can launch the satellites like we launched last year we are talking of an artisanal skill that isn't there. If you want to produce plumbers through apprenticeships then you need plumbers to be able to train them so these kind of issues are all part of what becomes the ongoing work that the National Planning Commission has to understand I know I have digressed a bit but I'm trying to give you a sense of the flavor of how you take these things together. You can go to any university there is nothing called future studies you can't register at Tukkies down the road and say well I want to be a futurist you might have to train as a sociologist or a civil engineer or somebody who does geography and then urban and regional planning it's how you are able to bring all of these skills together.

Journalist: You have given us the timeframe for nominations the 10th of February and then it will go to the President but you have mentioned it will be an enormous task to whittle down the list. You could have every man and his dog applying who will be doing the whittling down. Have you got some idea of how many names will be presented to the President and then decide.
Trevor Manuel: We are being very careful not to prejudge the process the worst case of course is that we get 15 names not very competent individuals and then we saddled with that we then have to find a few dogs to fill the 20. It's very difficult to judge we think that it would be facilitated by the online applications and we will have systems but clearly we can't go to the President with twenty names on a take it or leave it basis but we have set a tight deadline for ourselves to conclude this process by the end of March. There would clearly have to be a fair amount of iteration of the process it's very important you get the balances right so I think the first step that we are taking today is to say to SA take an interest in this, take an interest in our future if you know of people who are competent by all means nominate.

Journalist: I haven't read the revised Green Paper but how much was it toned down to avoid a confrontation with COSATU and SACP?

Journalist: Minister in the first round of questions you made reference to only South Africans should apply. But nowhere in the Green Paper new or old if I'm not mistaken or the press release does it say South Africans only need apply foreigners?

Journalist: Minister you are expected to take about 18 months to do the first draft what happens in the meantime, how are you feeding into the Government process in the meantime and things like the MTSF?

Journalist: Minister how transparent will the appointment process be? Will we be able to see the commissioners CV's and also who nominated who.

Trevor Manuel: Let me go back to the question that Kgomotso raised earlier what we have taken out are executive functions. You have a National Planning Commission it does very detailed a work a lot of that work is published its received by Cabinet but you can't remove the executive responsibilities of Cabinet. Those issues are constant they remain the same there are functions that Cabinet does that the Presidency does including the Medium Term Strategic Framework and so on that are more political with a small p and also more executive in its operation and those issues don't belong with the National Planning Commission and now they are separated out, those are the big changes. If one goes back to the report of the two committees in Parliament as I said earlier those are the kind of issues reflected in there I don't think that there were many issues that dealt with alliance partners or something like that because the consideration of COSATU there was a formal submission to that parliamentary process and you will find the footprint and the threads drawn through all of those discussion and debate. Of course I have separated out the individual and the sort of attacks in this thing because they shouldn't find a place in the way in which we take decisions about these matters.

I think we are looking at South Africans for the commission again in its work the commission might choose to invite expertise into some areas and some of that expertise may be non South African le met set an example a former colleague of mine Valli Moosa serves on a subcommittee of both the India and Chinese Planning Commission dealing with energy. He was Minister of Environmental Affairs and he was also chair of Eskom he is deemed to have international expertise and what those commissions do they send him documents they have a limited period to make input he meets with that subcommittee and those issues are fed in to the commission in either country it doesn't make him a member of the Planning Commission. That may be something that the Planning Commission here would consider but again we don't want to preempt their modus but clearly I am saying that there are range of experiences that we can take on board.

Mike, there are clearly issues that are longer term and issues that are shorter term. There may be some matters that are shorter, let me give an example. Ideally I think that we would want to keep the National Planning Commission out of the day to day running of Government. But there are some issues that become fundamentally important, let me bring together 2 sets of issues. The work considered in Copenhagen in December to be considered further in Mexico later this year and then in South Arica in 2011. The political agreement that exists is to reduce emissions by 2%, one task. We can't walk away from it you know that President Zuma played a fundamentally important role in reaching that political agreement. So that is on the table, we have to be committed to it. South Africa has also made a commitment to emissions reduction in the medium term. As we deal with those issues there are some matters that relate to the reduction of energy in the short term. If you go to page 4 of the revised Green Paper you will see in the box the 3rd bullet says energy consumption and production. It would not be unthinkable that the National Planning Commission may have to set up an urgent enquiry into this issue because if all of the power stations now being constructed are coal fired. And if there isn't efficient attention to carbon capture then it will have an implication on emissions going forward. So this is not something you can ignore, the Planning Commission I don't think will be able to stand with its collective hands in pockets whistling while these decisions are taken when in fact it would have huge ramifications going forward. So those kind of issues will arise we may well have to find a way of in the short term be able to feed in whilst the longer terms issues are being resolved. I think the worst case is that having formed the Commission, decision that are taken that have long term ramifications are actually allowed to be cemented in the political life of South Africa.

Pieter, look I don't want to prejudge how many people we have but I think that the names will be published, we won't publish all of the applications. What happens is that there are people who may just have written matric and barely passed and see themselves as experts on hip hop and thing who will also submit their names and clearly we want to separate those issues out., And in terms of nomination process I think it's something that the DG will raise with the President.