Bua Briefs 130

14 October 2008

Towards a fifteen year review

Why a fifteen year review?

Looking ahead to the end of its mandated term, government decided in 2007 to repeat the experience of the Ten Year Review. Informed by the lessons of the first 10 years and the mandate of 2004, government had devised detailed programmes to accelerate and sustain positive trends. Critically it had to enable the country to move to a faster trajectory of growth and development. The aim of the review is to assess progress and challenges since the attainment of democracy, with special focus on the past five years.

The review is intended to contribute to the long-term planning that has become part of government’s approach to directing national development. As such, it is as much concerned with shortcomings and challenges as it is with progress.

It is primarily a review of the impact of public policy on the quality of life of South Africans. Government would therefore like to see its social partners and citizens in general not only giving their own views on these critical matters, but also assessing the impact of their own activities on social dynamics within the nation and beyond. Government hopes that it serves as a catalyst for national discussion on how the country can build on what has been done, deal with the challenges and speed up development.

How was the review done?

The review drew on a wide range of research, inside government and by outside organisations and experts. It built on the Ten Year Review; the Macro Social Report and the Development Indicators. It also drew on research for the scenario planning process. The more than 50 commissioned papers will be put on the Internet. It is structured around themes in accordance with the government clusters. The situation of the targeted groups – women, children, youth and person with disabilities – is covered both in the cluster reviews and in a dedicated section. Thematic background reports summarising the research in more detail than the final report will also go onto the Internet in due course.

The synthesis report Towards a Fifteen Year Review was published after presentation to the July Cabinet Lekgotla. It focuses on the impact of government programmes rather than the programmes themselves, though at times output indicators serve as proxy for impact.

What is the main finding?

Given the strategic objective of moving to and sustaining a higher trajectory of growth and development to sustain reconstruction and development, what has been achieved?

The review indicates that almost 15 years into democracy, much has been done to eradicate the legacy of apartheid and build a new, just society. Halfway through the Second Decade of Freedom, South Africa has notched up to a faster rate of growth and development.

However, it is not yet enough. The challenges identified five years ago have in the main proved more deep-seated than was recognised. Success has brought new challenges. The State has had to learn new ways of doing things, but may not always have been decisive and flexible enough. The global environment is less favourable than expected.

What was that conclusion based on?

The conclusion is based on two sets of findings: on the one hand, about the impact of the State; and on the other, about major trends in our society and in the global context, setting the scene within which the State acts.

What has been the impact of the State

Across the themes, the review shows progress combined with persistent or new challenges, illustrated in the summary examples below:

Governance: There has been great progress in the democratic transformation of the State in building institutions and systems, including innovative platforms for citizen participation. Much has been done to improve co-ordination in government and to create a legislative and policy framework for good governance. Measures to improve services are having some impact.

On the other hand, there are problems of implementation and service in many of these areas and co-ordination is an ongoing and evolving challenge. Improving state capacity requires attention to skills, standards, systems and institutions rather than just more resources (except local government). The trend of local protests indicates shortcomings in actual practice in participation platforms

Social: There has been substantial overall improvement in people’s lives through mainly well-targeted programmes to reduce poverty with regard to income (mainly through grants), and access to social services and assets (housing and land).

On the other hand, poverty is still a big challenge. Despite reduced income poverty and faster growth, income inequalities did not decrease and in some respects increased. Among many households, the cycle of poverty and dependency is reproduced by continuing weaknesses and inequalities in human and social capabilities. Most social services need attention to quality and to management of delivery

Economic: Successful policy evolution in a changing environment has seen the country achieve and sustain macroeconomic stability, creating the climate for faster job-creating growth and economic reform.

The current confluence of negative indicators, however, shows a need for faster removal of constraints to growth. Insufficient social partnership has limited the impact of polices. There is a need for more attention to economic inclusion and for second-economy interventions with mass impact rather than many small ones.

Justice, Crime Prevention and Security: The cluster’s policies and priorities are having an impact and are appropriate to the challenges.

However, the challenges have proved more difficult to deal with than anticipated, especially violent and organised crime and the need for integrated strategising and action across the criminal justice system. Mobilisation of society to participate in fighting crime has been less than required and crime is impacting on other areas of social endeavour – the rule of law, the economy, public morale and social cohesion.

International relations: Advances towards most foreign-policy objectives made in the first decade continued in the past five years, including a significant contribution to the promotion of African peace and development. The country made fruitful responses to the evolution of global relations (e.g. China).

However, implementing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and improving the regional climate are still key challenges with minimal progress. South Africa needs better alignment of its political and economic diplomacy and stronger public diplomacy.

Targeted groups: In many dimensions, democratic government has been instrumental in improving the lives of women, children, people with disabilities and the youth. Legislation and institutional machinery put government on track to meet most of its constitutional obligations regarding vulnerable groups.

But persistent inequalities reduce the impact of state action to reduce vulnerabilities, especially regarding employment and violence. Employment of persons with disabilities in public and private sectors is less than it should be.

Transversal post-2004 initiatives

Government’s response to the experience of implementing the 2004 mandate has included some major mainly cross-cutting initiatives in the past few years:

What trends in society does the review look at?

Major trends in our society and beyond shape the terrain in which the State acts and affect the possibilities of what can be achieved. The review therefore revisits the socio-economic trends identified at the end of the First Decade of Freedom, and looks at new socio-economic dynamics. These include such matters as the unbundling of households, growth in the economically active population, migration, structural unemployment, social cohesion, inequality, legitimacy of the State, national leadership and social partnership, the global context and the evolving domestic and international policy context.

Where does the main conclusion lead?

Given the main finding, what broad strategic framework would enable government to overcome persistent and new challenges and succeed in enabling the country to move to a trajectory of growth and development that is sufficient to meet our development objectives?

South Africa could continue on the path it has followed, ensuring some progress but barely denting structural ills such as economic structure, massive unemployment among youth and unskilled, inequality, poor quality in some social services and trends in violent crime. With this, society will plod on with occasional social instability

The question is whether there is a possibility for a big push based on broad national consensus propelling the totality of national endeavours towards better social impact?

The review suggests that there is such a possibility, but that it depends on a number of conditions, including the agency of various social actors. Success will require a decisive state with higher levels of legitimacy, and a more cohesive society, together prepared to pursue a common vision and make the necessary adaptations and choices between priorities when the need arises.

Elements of strategy

Whatever is done going forward, the main elements of strategy would need to revolve around some core ideas:

Speeding up growth and transforming the economy

Faster and shared growth is essential for reducing unemployment and poverty. In turn, the country’s productive capacity needs to be improved so we can grow faster; absorb more labour, including people with less skills; ensure competition; increase exports; and ensure thriving conditions for small and micro-enterprises. There is also a need to develop second-economy programmes that have a mass impact.

There will be a need to take account of a shift in the cost of energy and to protect the environment.

Fighting poverty

Measures to overcome poverty are central to the comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that government is developing. Reducing unemployment is the key anti-poverty measure. It requires removing whatever barriers are responsible for the country having a weak, small business sector and discouraging many able-bodied people from seeking work.

Fighting poverty requires a special effort towards increasing people’s chances of entering the labour market and/or setting up their own businesses. Education has enormous potential to break the cycle of poverty.

Building social cohesion and state legitimacy

Ensuring a harmonious society requires a reduction in inequality, through access to economic opportunities for all, better outcomes in education and skills-training and sustaining pro-poor government spending.

Key to social cohesion are strong and legitimate public institutions. That requires better service by the State, improved platforms for public participation and reducing crime and corruption. Similarly, society has the responsibility to respect and protect the legitimacy and authority of state institutions.

Building a cohesive society also requires the promotion of solidarity and caring among all South Africans rather than the values of individualism. State and society need to work together in developing a new value system.

Pursuing the values of international co-operation

Much work has been done to strengthen partnerships across the world, especially in Africa and the South. This needs to continue, still prioritising Africa and the countries of the South while maintaining relationships with industrialised countries. Strengthening strategic partnerships and the deployment of resources to advance African development will help advance our national interests.

Building a developmental state

To do the things outlined above, the State would need to:

  • be people-centred and people-driven
  • lead mobilisation of all sectors of society towards a common national agenda
  • implement programmes effectively and ensure that it has the right structures and systems for co-ordinated action
  • translate the broad goals and objectives of the Constitution and the electoral mandate into practical programmes and projects
  • have stronger platforms for more regular interaction between citizens and their public representatives

Programmatic elements of strategy for reference

Achieving these broad elements of strategic posture will require specific initiatives and programmes as well as institutional changes and improvements. The concluding section of the review provides a list for consideration of a range of programmatic elements that can be implemented in various packages and sequenced in various ways depending on particular policy choices. The experience of those developing countries that have achieved accelerated development in similarly challenging circumstances emphasises that while all the initiatives and programmes would be critical in moving the country towards faster growth and development, success will require focus on a few catalytic initiatives as strategic priorities.