Cyril Ramaphosa, Sunday Times, Johannesburg, 23 December 2012
The ANC’s 53rd national conference has finally provided certainty on a number of wide-ranging economic policy debates.
The conference could not have been more timely, given the challenges facing South Africa.
The gathering of the 4500 delegates representing ANC membership from the villages, townships, cities and suburbs of our country, took place to, among other things, reviews the progress made in implementing the resolutions of the 52nd conference in Polokwane in 2007, and adopt resolutions that will guide our movement for the next five years.
True to our culture in the ANC, the conference did not disappoint with the robustness of the debates.
There is no doubt about the significant progress that has been made in implementing the resolutions of Polokwane.
From a policy point of view, a New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Plan Three, at the centre of which is the creation of jobs, have been put in place and are being implemented.
The government will be spending hundreds of billions of rands in the next five years developing key economic infrastructure, including railway lines, ports and roads. The foundations have been laid, but few of the results of this work have yet been realised. However, there have also been challenges that need urgent attention.
Polokwane did not anticipate the extent of the volatility emanating largely from the deteriorating global economic environment. The decline in the demand for our products from our trading partners exposes our dependence on the export of commodities.
Our domestic situation has also offered opportunities and presented threats which we must consider seriously.
Unlike many developing countries, we have a strong private sector, and our economy has largely been resilient in the face of the global financial crisis.
Our debt-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the world, and we have the biggest endowment of mineral resources in the world.
But our economy is not growing fast enough to enable us to create sufficient jobs. At the same time, our labour-relations system is not holding up in the context of the increasing inequalities and social gap in our country, now recognised as among the greatest in the world.
Some of these problems have started to concern some in the investor community and local businesses. While the concerns are legitimate, what triggered them are issues the ANC has been seized with for some time. We have always been aware that the historical socioeconomic marginalisation of the majority of our people needs to be addressed as soon as practically possible because our social stability will not be sustainable if they persist.
We accept that these matters require clarity, consistent communication and the implementation of policy. The national conference has now adopted the National Development Plan (NDP) as a vision for the country that is consistent with ANC policies, and has mandated the leadership to lead the whole of society in having the vision realised. Fortunately, most sectors of society – including the cabinet – have accepted and endorsed the plan. Now we need to start making the hard policy choices and effectively implement them.
In this regard, the conference has reaffirmed the centrality of the developmental state in driving economic development, and the NDP calls for the strengthening of state capacity.
The plan is to get South Africa working, and the NDP contains a set of interventions that will lead us to growth and development – and we need both.
The national conference has called for social dialogue between the government, labour and business to coordinate the implementation of economic policy.
Concretely, a partnership is required to grow our labour-absorbing industries, like manufacturing and infrastructure-build programmes. We also need to exploit the advantage of our natural resources in mining and agriculture.
The recent volatility in the global financial markets as well as the downgrading of the country by rating agencies should also strengthen our resolve to increase domestic savings for investments.
These interventions require a proper identification of South Africa’s core competencies in those areas, and then to build strategies around them.
These are as much decisions about what we will do as about what will not do, based on our competitiveness and developmental aspirations.
Our guiding light in such a social dialogue should be the reduction of poverty and inequality, and the creation of jobs. Social partners need to understand that what is at stake is the future of our country, and an entire generation of youth that will be lost if we concern ourselves only with narrow sectoral interests.
The development plan echoes this call when it asserts that trust and cooperation are require for our development and growth.
In the new year the ANC will rapidly develop a programme of action to realise the NDP’s objectives – and all our deployees have been instructed to ensure that all these objectives are integrated in all economic activities and other social interventions to speed up the socioeconomic emancipation of our people.
This can only be achieved if we all pull together and embrace a common vision.