Debate by Greg Scheemann on the Appropriation Bill
13 March 2007
In its 2004 Election Manifesto, the ANC committed to invest more than R 100 billion in improving roads, rail and air transport as well as telecommunications and energy. The ANC also committed to build more subsidised housing, improve health infrastructure, ensure that all children have decent classrooms, speed up programmes to provide water, sanitation and electricity.
Two years later in its 2006 Local Government Election Manifesto, the ANC committed to invest more than R 400 billion in infrastructure to create jobs and fight poverty, building roads, rail networks, dams, electricity generating plants and communications infrastructure. The ANC also committed to providing all households with access to clean running water and decent sanitation by 2010 and the provision of electricity to every house by 2012.
In his address to the First Joint Sitting Of The Third Democratic Parliament on 21 May 2004, President Thabo Mbeki announced the following:
- That all households would have easy access to clean water within the next five years.
- Within the next 8 years, working together with our state enterprise Eskom, we will ensure that each household has access to electricity.
- That there should be no learner and student learning under a tree.
The January 8 Statement of the ANC stated that
"Clearly, the guiding principle of our roadmap must continue to be to move forward decisively to eradicate poverty and all other elements of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid."
The National Executive Committee of the African National Congress declared 2007 as:
"The Year to Intensify the Struggle against Poverty as we Advance in Unity towards 2012 - Phambili."
The budget presented by the Minister of Finance on 21 February 2007 provides the necessary resources to deliver the necessary infrastructure which are required to meet these commitments.
The spending priorities of this budget have been informed by the need to accelerate economic growth, create employment and the reduction of poverty.
Significant allocations are directed towards:
- The provision of infrastructures such as new classrooms, water, electricity and sanitation in schools which will help to improve the quality of education in our schools.
- The hospital revitalisation program.
- The built environment with emphasis on the building of vibrant and safe communities.
- The provision of efficient and effective public transport and related infrastructure.
- The provision of water, sanitation and electricity and the eradication of the bucket system by the end of this year.
- The construction of stadiums for the 2010 World Cup and other related infrastructure such as the upgrading of roads, rail station and precincts that will help make the 2010 World Cup the best yet staged.
- The provision of well equipped libraries in our communities.
It is estimated that the public sector expenditure on infrastructure over the MTEF period to 2009/10 will amount to R 415.8 billion.
In addition, major investment commitments have been made by Eskom and Transnet which include power generation and the expansion of the freight rail network. These investments will assist in reducing the cost of business by providing certainty of the supply of critical services to industry.
We must make sure that we use the infrastructure programmes to grow the small business sector. In particular, the 2010 stadium construction program and the construction of the Gautrain provide an ideal platform for the involvement and growth of small businesses.
The investment in infrastructure not only the maintenance but also the provision of new infrastructure provides an opportunity to develop a new generation workforce which is well skilled and equipped to serve the economy in the years to come.
It will be important that we ensure that we develop now the skills that we will need in the future and not wait for the future to arrive before we realise that we do not have the necessary skills nor capacity to both utilise available resources and to deliver the required infrastructure.
This is not a task of Government alone. It requires the Private Sector and all other relevant stakeholders to join Government in both identifying and providing the necessary skills and capacity.
The allocations which are provided for the Built Environment provide an opportunity to continue to implement the Breaking New Ground Housing Strategy which seeks to build new residential communities that are vibrant, sustainable and safe and non-racial. Communities which have the necessary infrastructure such as housing, roads, community halls, sports fields, water, sanitation, electricity, police stations, schools, libraries and clinics.
Whilst we are seeing the roll out of the pilot projects which focus on informal settlement upgrading and the creation of new human settlements, the speed at which they are being implemented needs to be increased. Even though, the concept of these pilot projects were announced in mid 2004 as part of the Breaking New Ground Housing Strategy, in some provinces, these pilot projects are still in the planning phase.
Although the N2 Gateway Project here in Cape Town is progressing, we need to see a speeding up of the implementation of this important housing project.
The resources of R 32 billion over the next three years provide an opportunity to accelerate the provision of communities who are housed in safe and vibrant communities.
This will necessitate better and more streamlined municipal and residential planning as well as improved inter-departmental co-ordination, planning and budgeting.
Red tape which often reportedly delays the delivery of housing and related infrastructure needs to be identified and simplified to allow faster implementation.
According to Sasha Planting who wrote in the Financial Mail of 23 February of 2007,
"Money is not the issue. Overcoming the backlog is about getting the execution up to speed and forging good partnerships with all tiers of government, the financial sector and the handful of developers able to tackle projects on a big scale."
Whilst the Minister of Finance commended Provinces on the progress they have been making in rolling out their infrastructure programmes, it is incumbent on National Departments to strengthen their monitoring strategies on provinces, municipalities and agencies to who they make transfers.
Here in Parliament, we need to pay special attention in our oversight over those departments who have significant infrastructure allocations. These departments need to provide the relevant Portfolio Committees with detailed plans and spending projections linked to timeframes.
We are often told that the policies of our country are excellent but that the implementation thereof is what often lets us down.
Departments in all spheres of Government need to take proactive steps to ensure that effective, efficient and quicker implementation of policies take place.
The financial resources which are available for infrastructure must be well utilised to ensure that the employment opportunities are created, poverty is eradicated and economic growth takes place.
The 2007 Budget pays attention to the need to improve co-ordination in policy development and planning and the technical capacity to manage expenditure effectively.
Furthermore, the Infrastructure Delivery Improvement Programme, which addresses under spending of provincial capital expenditure budgets, targets poor planning, lack of delivery, management systems and the general lack of skills. It also supports improved effectiveness and efficiency of public sector infrastructure delivery through the use of best practice methods and also builds capacity to enable departments to deliver on their mandates.
This provides a clear indication of the seriousness of government in ensuring that departments are well equipped and capacitated to deliver on their mandates.
This applies to not just government departments but also to those in the Private Sector who are awarded tenders by government departments.
In particular I wish to refer to news items which appeared in the Star of March 12 relating to a housing development in Evaton, Gauteng and the Metro supplement of the Sunday Times of March 11 which relates to a housing project at Cosmo City in Johannesburg.
In both of these reports, tenders were awarded to specific companies who have in turn reportedly not delivered what they were required to.
If the reports are correct, such mismanagement of state funds cannot be tolerated and must be condemned with the necessary action being taken.
I have raised these two examples because it must be clearly understood that the budget allocations are there to improve the lives of all South Africans and in particular those who most marginalised.
It also reaffirms the need for departments to improve their monitoring and evaluation of funds which they transfer, be they to other spheres of government or to private sector companies who are awarded tenders.
According to the 2007 Budget Review,
"Civil construction in particular benefited from increased investment in road and water infrastructure. Employment gains have been robust, with the labour complement increasing from 348 000 in March 2001 to 548 000 in March 2006."
This is a clear indication that of the impact of employment creation through investment in infrastructure. These figures will be significantly increased with increased allocations for infrastructure which include the 2010 World Cup Stadium construction and the Gautrain.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup provides us with an opportunity to reduce infrastructure backlogs in metropolitan areas and municipalities. Increased allocations are also made to Local Government for infrastructure development through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant which provides impetus to stimulate local economic development and employment creation through labour based infrastructure methods in line with the EPWP.
President Mbeki wrote in his weekly letter in the ANC Today of 23 February 2007:
"The central task of the National Democratic Revolution is to construct a people-centred society that will, in practice, demonstrate that it values every human being on an equal basis, determined to that each should enjoy a life of dignity, regardless of race, colour, gender, age or belief. All the budgets approved by our Democratic Parliaments since 1994, including the 2007/08 budget, have focussed exactly on the attainment of this objective."
Whilst we have done a lot to give meaning to the statement that Human Life has equal worth, we still have to do more to confront the legacy of poverty, racism and sexism.
In concluding his State of the Nation Address to Parliament on 9 February 2007, President Mbeki made a call that we should roll up our sleeves and get down to work.Those were not words to make his address sound good but rather it was a call to all of us here in Parliament, the Provincial Legislatures, Local Government and each person in the employ of the different departments of government to get down to the work of delivering quality services to all South Africans, a call to improve the living conditions of all South Africans and a call to create employment and reduce poverty.