Minister on the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning

Meeting Summary

The Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission spoke on the purpose of the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning. "Blazing a New Trail" in the Green Paper referred specifically to the need to bring the state into decision-making about South Africa’s collective future. The type of planning envisioned by the National Planning Commission was discussed, as were the areas the planning function would not be involved in and the gaps in the current planning system. The Green Paper proposed strategic research and investigations for parliamentary ad hoc committees. An example was made of how planning would fit into the South Africa context regarding the issue of water provision. Flow diagrams were presented to explain the Ministry’s thinking on the interim outputs of the planning function and the inter-relationships between planning institutions. The role of Parliament was discussed, as were proposals for the next steps in the process. The Ministry emphasised that the proposed architecture and systems of strategic planning would be finalised, taking into account inputs from Parliament, experts and society at large.

Members asked how different ministries would co-operate, how South Africa would get consensus on a national vision and how one would deal with populist elements. The Minister had quoted James K Galbraith in reference to the role of the state and the application of this view to the market economy was queried. The Minister was asked how government could get past the reluctance of many in the ruling party to acknowledge accountability and the consequences of failure. It was noted that the Green Paper emphasised the need for choice and members wondered about the extent to which the cost of those choices would be integrated into planning. The Committee asked what its mandate would be in the context of the Green Paper and queried the broader role of Parliament. Members sought clarity on whether the NPC was responsible for constructing the long-term overarching plan or not and what the persuasive powers of the NPC, the Ministry and the Presidency would be. The Minister had referenced economist, Anthony Giddens. A Member commented that a critique of Giddens' work suggested that his assumption of an orderly consensus did not necessarily pre-exist. Related to the role of the state within the market system, a Member expressed the view that South Africa needed policy that attracted capital into its market. A Member queried the role of Parliament in this planning process. Was Parliament seen as a stakeholder in the process, an arbiter within debates, a generator of ideas, a decision maker or a custodian of the planning process to ensure that planning had a reasonable chance of success.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that the Committee was expected to report back on 23 October 2009. Although this was a provisional date, he felt that Committee should strive to work within this timeframe.

Mr Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission, presented the powerpoint presentation on the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning. In addition to the document, he made the following comments. The trend has been that successful countries have had some kind of national planning that built unity and purpose in government and across society. Regarding the purpose of the Green Paper, he commented on China's 60th anniversary and on the eight attributes that China had adopted as national characteristics. They were: seeking truth in facts, the primacy of people's livelihoods, the importance of holistic thinking, government as a necessary virtue, good governance matters more than democratisation, performance legitimacy, learning and adaptation and harmony in diversity. These issues had shaped the national character of China and were to what they attributed their success.

South Africa aimed to unfold a process that had not received adequate attention in the first 15 years of government. Two aspects were isolated for attention: the ability to better anticipate and align policy and performance monitoring and evaluation.

The Minister reflected on the foreword to India's 11th Five Year Plan and noted the emphasis on the economic conditions of people and the affirmation of the role of people and seeking to address this through social, economic and institutional means. As in the Indian model, he stated that the role of planning in the market economy had to find resonance in South Africa's approach. The "Blazing a New Trail" section of the presentation concerned what the experience of the last 15 years had shown about planning in South Africa. He referred to the views of the economist, Anthony Giddens, that effective action on climate change would require long-term government planning and this spoke broadly to the need to bring the state into decision making about South Africa’s collective future.

A matter that the Committee and other participants in the process of developing national planning would have to consider; was how we would define the "developmental state". This was important as interpretations of what this meant differed. He recalled his recent visit the highly ordered city of Istanbul and concluded that the question that was key to the discussion was how South Africa could achieve a similar level of development and organisation.

The type of planning the National Planning Commission (NPC) proposed for South Africa was discussed as well as what the planning function would not do. Regarding the latter, micro-planning and sector planning, gate-keeping and budgeting were areas the planning function would not be involved in. They were of the opinion that micro-planning and sector planning was best left to departments, spatial planning was best left to the municipalities and budgeting should remain under the National Treasury, headed by the Minister of Finance. He added that it was necessary to provide trend lines of the performance of these functions to facilitate the sequencing of activities - without stepping into the space where those decisions were taken.

The gaps in the current planning system were presented (see document).

Regarding the long-term vision, they had relied on the work of economist, Professor James K Galbraith who had pointed out that corporations did their planning based on profit. This was the reason that the state could not be left to plan the remainder of what happened in a national economy. Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, energy issues were the subject of debate. South Africa had companies that talked about seeking alternative energy sources but had made no progress toward this goal. Internationally many alternatives were being researched, including making fuel from algae. He recognised that this was driven by the increasing scarcity of oil, the cost of extracting oil reserves and the profit motive. Societies could not be limited by the constraints to planning represented by the profit motive of corporations. Societies had to think in terms of the needs of people and this was to be the challenge faced in the planning function. South Africa had not engaged with the problems presented by Apartheid spatial planning. The divisions created by this were still evident in the everyday lives of South Africans.

Part of the debate also had to address income equality, unemployment, the development of skills, the consequent development of industry and intellectual capital, attracting investment, the reduction of violent crime and the state of healthcare in South Africa.

Strategic research and investigations correlated to page 20 of the Green Paper and detailed the national planning issues that could be the subject of ad hoc investigations by Parliament.
An example of where planning would fit in was around the issue of water provision in South Africa. The Minister noted that this would lead into other resource issues, such as irrigation, water used in mining and ground water.

Flow diagrams were presented to explain the Ministry’ thinking regarding the interim outputs of the planning function and the inter-relationships between planning institutions.  The latter detailed the interactions between Cabinet, the Minister in the Presidency, the Ministerial Committee on Planning and the National Planning Commission.

Regarding the role of Parliament, he commented that it might be advisable for Parliament to construct ad hoc committees specifically suited to specific investigations and that broadly, Parliament needed to draw on its resources differently.

The proposals for the next steps were aimed at addressing the need for interactive planning.
The Ministry emphasised that the proposed architecture and systems of strategic planning would be finalised, taking into account inputs from Parliament, experts and society at large.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked how different ministries would co-operate and specifically what was the role of the Department of Economic Development, under Minister Ebrahim Patel. He asked how this would fit in with finance and planning portfolios, particularly in view of criticism from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). The Committee was of the opinion that ministries must complement one another.

Ms M Tlake (ANC) noted that there was gap between legislation and policy implementation. Planning was very important and necessary to achieve the vision. There was a need to evaluate previous planning. She added that planning must be flexible and dynamic and that Members of Parliament must be optimistic and step out of their comfort zones to face the challenges.

The Minister stated that he may not be able to do justice to all the questions, partly because he did not have all the answers.

The Minister replied that they should take Trevor Manuel out of the equation and de-personalise the whole debate. The proposals on the table were the substance of the Green Paper. South Africa did not have the detailed planning before. After the 1994 elections, the Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP) was put on the table. The RDP was quite general and did not include the aspect of performance measurement. The document spoke to the realisation that more had to be done.

There were experiences from all over world on how this could work. He referred to the South Africa’s Ministerial Committee on Budget and the composition of the planning function in India as structures that provided guidance on the planning process. This was something South Africa had not done before and the key issue was getting to the origins of the planning function. The detail and implementation were later stages.

He referred to a debate on spatial planning issues with the South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA) and referenced the proposal for local economic development and spatial settlement trends on page 20 of the Green Paper. He explained that this exercise was aimed at developing policy proposals and to test what then happened at local government level.

Mr I Davidson (DA) remarked that an issue that was critical to the document was that of getting consensus on a national vision. The Green Paper used the example of National Economic, Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) as an example of what not to follow. He asked how South Africa could arrive at a consensus vision, bearing in mind the divisions in society. Key to this was how the NPC would be constituted and who the role players would be and how the interactions of diverse groupings would drive vision seeking. This was also related to a common understanding of the values that drive us. He asked how they would deal with populist elements where the "tail could wag the dog" at times.

The Minister replied that consensus was exceedingly difficult to achieve. For instance, defining and debating the concept of "developmental state" was complex enough to grind the process to a halt. The other approach was to look at the broader goals of creating employment and improving the living standards of people. Flowing from this they had to address the individual circumstances of people and their aspirations for themselves and their children. These were the issues they had to battle through. The approach of the NPC was based on the Constitution and they may have to return to Parliament to debate that issue separately. Before looking at the groupings within the planning process, they should consider the values. Parliament, as custodian of the Constitution, had the right to detail some of these issues. The issue of populist elements was an area where big challenges arose and he felt that government and Parliament had a collective responsibility.

Mr Davidson noted that the Minister had quoted Galbraith in reference to the role of the state. Galbraith could be read in different ways. Galbraith stated that the role of the state and the private sector were not mutually exclusive. The role of the state tackled the problems that markets could not solve. He asked how they would get consensus on a vision of what the role of the state should be.

The Minister quoted Galbraith and noted arguments on the operation of the labour market, specifically, that the interaction between the supply and demand for labour did not exist. He referenced Keynesian theory, which stated that there was no supply curve for labour and that the total demand for labour determined employment, specifically that it was employers, not workers who determined the scale of the workplace. Galbraith argued that the market and government must co-exist. The Minister concluded that part of the answer was in understanding the role of the developmental state and yet another part was in understanding markets. This was particularly relevant because markets would continue to exist. He added that markets would necessarily need regulation.

Mr Davidson noted that the key to the success of any vision was the implementation of that vision. Implementation was dependent on accountability and accountability was ultimately dependent on the recognition of the fact that those who fail must go. He asked how one could get past the reluctance of many in the ruling party to acknowledge accountability and the consequences of failure.

The Minister replied that the question of accountability was an important one and he was sure it would continue to arise in Parliament debate. It was fundamental to the construct of the Constitution.

Mr Davidson noted that the Green Paper emphasised the need for choice. He asked to what extent the cost of those choices would be integrated into planning. He referred to the Motor Industry Development Program (MIDP) and noted that no one had explained what the real cost of the MIDP would be to South Africa. He acknowledged the trade-off between employment creation and the cost to the taxpayer but felt that this should be made consciously. This was a matter of information being openly available.

The Minister responded that the industrial base in South Africa was heavily dependent on energy and our energy was almost exclusively coal-fired. This had the consequence of carbon emissions. The trade-off could be found in the fact that South Africa had to change this in favour of a new industrial base. This could not be changed with a statement or slogan. It would take a number of years to work through the issues from an informed basis. Planning began to deal with this but the detail of issues would be dealt with by the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Trade and Industry. Part of these departments' responsibility was to determine the costs. He agreed that the MIDP had to be costed but added this was about taking a long-term view and being able to track back and plan forward.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) stated that they were faced with an enormous challenge in the realisation of this goal but believed that they were on the right track. She asked how all levels of people in South Africa could be convinced that planning was designed to benefit everyone and allay fears that it would disadvantage people in order to encourage people to contribute.

The Minister replied that he did not believe the divisions were that big. Politics could not be a blunt instrument and was really about persuasion. Politicians had to be bold enough to state which things they agreed on and which things they did not agree on.

Ms Mushwana asked how they could marry planning, implementation and monitoring.

The Minister replied that the Green Paper laid the basis for Parliament involvement. There was also the Discussion Paper on the Executive Function in Monitoring and Implementation. Broadly they had started from the premise that Auditor-General reports, though valuable, come too late in the process. He draw a parallel with matric results, stating that once a child had failed matric, the fault was to be found, not in the final report, but in the preceding 13 years of education. He pointed to the uniformity in the French education system and added that reforms to nudge the South Africa education in a similar direction were already planned. The same monitoring and evaluation approach would be applied throughout key sectors, such as education and health and expand to other issues. There was a large amount of day-to-day co-ordination within the Presidency. Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr Collins Chabane was very committed to these goals.

Ms Mushwana stated that the issue of water was very important and asked for comment on how South Africa should deal with the pricing of water, considering that some people were able to pay more for water while others were not able to pay at all.

The Minister replied that South Africa was in a unique position because it provided an amount of free basic water to everyone. The key questions were whether the tariffs were stepped sufficiently, whether water should be priced differently in different parts of the country and how they should respond to drought-stricken areas as opposed to more water-abundant areas. Responding to these questions would involve the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, Water Boards, local government and all of government. As with electricity, there had to be a multi-year price determination and the pricing for water and electricity would be different from what South Africans were used to in the past. Another issue was how they dealt with water, as a public good, going forward.

Mr N Singh (IFP) noted that much reference was made to debates taking place in the media and public domain in general. The Committee had to deal with the fundamental question of whether better planning would contribute to better service delivery and better utilisation of state resources. The Committee had to focus their attention on that.

The Minister replied that planning must necessarily contribute to better service delivery and the use of resources.

Mr Singh asked what the mandate of the Committee would be in the context of the Green Paper and the improvement of government performance. He asked what resources were available to the Ministry and if the Ministry would be adequately resourced.

The Minister responded that the Ministry would follow the process of going before the Minister of Finance and the MinComBud for resources. The Ministry structure would include a secretariat, some basis for expertise and also be able to draw in the experts needed for short periods. The larger cost they would have to bear was dissemination of information. This information had to be made available to people and this would also allow young people to imbibe these values.

Mr Singh queried a contradiction in the fifth paragraph of the Minister's preface, specifically “Commissioners will be expected to ask challenging questions about our plans".
He then referred to paragraph five of the Executive Summary and asked if the Minister and the Presidency would be the architects of the plan. He asked if the architects of the plan would be external and if the experts (Commissioners) would have to then interrogate the plan.

Mr Joel Netshitenze, Head: Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services: Presidency, replied that the formulation of the preface might point to a weakness in formulation. By "plans" they meant the current activities and current plans of government. When the NPC started its work, they would have to begin by evaluating the planning work done thus far, pose questions about that and use this in the resulting research. Along with the process of collating data, this would be a basis for drafting the long-term plan.

Mr Singh pointed to the various references to China, India and other countries and asked if this thinking had come about as a result of international visits.

The Minister responded that this pre-dated his appointment to the Ministry. A research term had visited Brazil, Malaysia, India, South Korea and other countries over a long period to get a sense of how planning was done internationally. They had also used the other information available. He specifically commented on the well-developed telecommunications infrastructure in Asian countries that allowed for the communication of ideas more easily than in South Africa.

Mr Singh expressed the view that South Africa should adopt a revolutionary approach to service delivery. He asked the Minister to comment on the targeted plans India developed, called the White Revolution, the Green Revolution and the Yellow Revolution. For example, the Green Revolution was targeted at ensuring that agriculture became the mainstay of the Indian economy. By the same token the Yellow Revolution was about oil seeds and the White Revolution was about milk. He added that a key to the approach would be informing people about what government's plans and intentions.

The Minister referred to the South Korean planning experience. This had interestingly occurred under a military regime. The first five-year plan was aimed at building a self-reliant industrial structure. The second was aimed at modernising the industrial structure and building import substitution industries. The third was aimed at building an export oriented industrial structure by promoting heavy and chemical industries. The fourth promoted the development of industries that could effectively compete internationally. The fifth was aimed at moving the concentration from heavy and chemical to technology intensive industries. The sixth concerned extension of the fifth five-year plan with emphasis on research and development and manpower training. The seventh promoted high technology fields, such as micro-electronics, new materials, fine chemicals, bio-engineering, optics and aerospace. From this the evolution of planning was evident, once a basis for planning was in place. He added that Seoul was now one of the most technology intensive cities worldwide and this was a result of the trajectory of decisions taken over a long period. The green revolution aspect featured currently in South Korea, Malaysia and India. The hard evaluation of carbon emissions and the changes necessary for sustainability were the big issues for consideration.

Mr E Rasool (ANC) noted that the Minister had referenced Anthony Giddens. A critique of Giddens' work stated that Giddens operated from the assumption that there was post political consensus where the existence of consensus was present allowing a society to do long-term planning. He felt that this consensus would dissipate in various crises, such as the global economic crisis, the climate crisis and the demographic crisis. There were many centres of competing powers within and between governments and citizenry. The orderly consensus did not necessarily pre-exist.

The Minister responded that there was a sense that this was a polar debate between free market supporters and proponents of Soviet systems. He felt that this was an outdated view.
Referring to Galbraith's questions on how pricing in the carbon market would be determined, he concluded that generally governments could not just sit back and accept that the “all knowing Wall Street” (free market) would provide all the answers.

Mr Netshitenze replied that even in periods of high growth, South Africa was unable to address the challenges faced by society, employment, poverty, inequality and spatial development. It was not merely a question of government doing what the market could not do. Government also had to provide leadership to give direction to the kind of development that they strived for, based on the preamble of the Constitution. Left on their own, markets will not resolve all the problems in society.

Mr Rasool referred to what the NPC was not. He had gathered from this that the NPC did not see itself as wielding coercive power; rather it appeared to take the view that it would use persuasive power. He asked what the persuasive powers of the NPC, the Ministry and the Presidency were to arbitrate the sequencing of policy implementation processes, the prioritisation of programmes, resourcing, choices and who had to make sacrifices. Without clarity on this, they may not be able to ensure that a long-term (between five and thirty years) plan is implemented.

Mr Netshitenze replied that the Committee should not be influenced by the tone of discourse in the media. Rather they should focus on whether the proposals will help achieve the objectives of government and the nation. The Committee would also have to ask whether the inputs made by the NPC would result in a higher level of integration and co-ordination as compared to the last fifteen years. Their approach was for every organ of state to have some planning capacity. The outcomes of this planning would become inputs into the national strategic planning process.

He recounted the failure of the Philippine attempt at a national strategic planning process. They had disparate centres where co-ordination took place. These centres were led by personalities competing against one another. As a result they were unable to develop a coherent plan and implement whatever planning they had. It would therefore be fundamental to have an iterative, consultative approach to planning. The Presidency would not shirk its responsibility to lead this process.

Mr Rasool queried the role of Parliament and asked whether Parliament was seen as a stakeholder in the process, an arbiter within debates, a generator of ideas, a decision maker or a custodian of the planning process to ensure that planning had a reasonable chance of success.

The Minister responded that these were fundamentally important questions. He did not have the answers. The Ministry had brought the information to Parliament and had asked for their considered views on it. The question about sacrifice was important. Planning was sequencing the changes. This was why it was better to determine where the country should be in the long-term, to sequence the options, in order to get there. The success of planning should be measured in the lives of the poor and the improvement it created. The longer the planning time horizon was, the easier it was to construct a national consensus about the trade-offs. We would all like to live in a country that had high levels of growth, employment, earnings, technology and skills but we do not have that. The key question was how South Africa would get there and one could not lock these goals out of people's dreams and aspirations for their children. Related to the issue of trade-offs, he quoted the famous adage: "everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die". He added that generally, the financing of this planning was fundamentally important. The financing of the Indian five-year plan was a 35 page document. This was echoed in the five-year plans of South Korea and Malaysia.

Mr Davidson was unclear about whether the NPC was responsible for constructing the long-term overarching plan or not. This plan would have to go to Cabinet for approval. He asked how any dissonance would be resolved. Could government revoke the mandate of NPC? Could government dismiss Commissioners and appoint new Commissioners? He asked where the Ministerial Committee on Planning would fit in and whether this was an executive body. His concern was that this could become a super-Cabinet. He also wondered where parliamentary committees fitted in. Would Ad Hoc Committees be set up for these investigations? He wondered if this would create a Parliament within a Parliament and a Cabinet within a Cabinet, thereby marginalising the real Cabinet and the real Parliament.

The Minister noted that the major recipients of capital inflow over the last decade had been countries with planning capabilities: China, India, Brazil, Malaysia and the USA.

Mr Davidson stated that the role of the state within the market system was a question that would recur and plague them. Free market fundamentalism was no longer a generally held belief. He wondered where they would draw the line between the state telling people what to do and the iterative approach to the market, listening to the cues of the market and empowering the market to do what it needed to do. This was a very powerful point because it recognised that there was a role for the state in a predominantly market oriented world in a country that was very dependent on dynamic capital flows. He felt that South Africa needed policy that attracted capital into its market.

The Minister responded that the Ministry was not trying to structure a multi-tiered hierarchy. They had considered the structure and functioning of the Ministers Committee on Budget, the Ministers Committee on Planning and planning in Malaysia and the USA but this issue remained unresolved. They did not know exactly how this would work in practice. The structural diagrams in the Green Paper reflected an endeavour to improve on how this would work. It was a work in progress.

Mr L Greyling (ID) felt that South Africa was at a critical juncture, both domestically and in a global context. There was a need to build depth and diversification into the economy. This should be specifically aimed at building different comparative advantages in trade on products outside of our mineral and energy complex. He felt that an Ubuntu approach would be useful - where they discuss areas where there was agreement before discussing the areas they did not agree on. He added that the long-term vision would be relatively easy to agree on and that the divisions would occur on issues of policies and plans to achieve the vision.
Planning had gone through an evolution. They could not control for all variables and should recognise the complexities of societies and look at the linkages between different issues.
He had noticed that the proposed ad hoc investigations seemed to once again put conservation, bio-diversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation in the "environmental" box. The NPC should look at the linkages between different elements in our society.

The Minister agreed that linkages were important. He felt that this exercise would teach them that thinking needed to change as there was a strong inter-relationship between issues.

Mr Singh stated that the Ministry had put together the ingredients and did not have a finalised plan. The stakeholders still had to make the plan and this had to be a collective process if it was to succeed. He also felt that the full participation of the youth was a missing element in the Green Paper. The youth comprised a significant percentage of the population and had to be included.

The Minister responded that they did not even have the ingredients. If one wanted to cook, one would need a kitchen, appliances, utensils. At this point they were only at the point of deciding what kind of stove they should have. They had, however, not decided on the ingredients and were nowhere close to the recipe yet. The Ministry took the point on the full participation of the youth. Generally, the Ministry would make itself available to the Committee to clarify any issues before the deadline of 23 October 2009.

Mr Netshitenze added that the Presidency believed that Parliament had a responsibility to ensure that the executive arising from this exercise was more effective in terms of co-ordination and integration and avoid the emergence of a federation of ministerial and departmental fiefdoms.

The Chairperson concluded that it was clear that the Green Paper was a culmination of many months of work and international consultation. The Committee would approach their work on the basis of building on the existing planning structures. Gaps in the system had to be addressed. The presentation had helped the Committee to understand the distinction between the national planning process and the National Planning Commission. It had also clarified the envisaged outputs at the end of the process, institutional capacity, insight into inter-governmental relationships and the NPC, the Ministerial Committee on Planning and Cabinet. Clarity was still sought on the relationship between all these role players and Parliament. The Committee had to interrogate this matter and make submissions in their report on the Green Paper. Parliament's role should be guided by what was best for the country. The Minster had raised the issue of time constraints. In the following two weeks, the Committee would do thorough consultations and produce an informed report, as this report would influence the final outcome of the Cabinet discussion of the Green Paper.

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: