“It’s the first time our country has ever had a long term plan. It is not comprehensive and it’s not perfect but it’s a pretty good way forward,” said Bobby Godsell, national planning commissioner, speaking at the National Development Plan discussion: A Plan in Motion.
“The challenge now however is to implement it. At the heart of the plan is the idea that it’s for society as a whole, not just government. We have to mobilise the business community, nongovernmental organisations and labour.”
He said however that there has always been miscommunication between government and business, mostly because the private sector doesn’t understand the difficulties of governing a newly democratic country. This needs to change in order to re-build South Africa.
“There has been a dialogue of the deaf between the business community and government. We can’t afford this rhetoric any longer, if we want the lights to stay on and if we want to find our place in a new global economy, we have to work together to renew the electricity supply and rebuild the global competitiveness of South Africa,” said Godsell.
Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, chairperson of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) said that the private sector has embraced the NDP however businesses’ role within the plan remains vague.
“There are many in the business community who are quite confused about the exact role of the private sector simply because when the government did introduce action plans that were immediate in nature, such as the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), the private sector didn’t seem to have much of a role within that,” she said.
“The issue now is to define boundaries so that each partner understands their role within the NDP. There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done.”
(READ MORE: S.Africa’s NDP plagued by inconsistency)
Khulekani Mathe, acting head of the National Planning Commission (NPC), argued however that the NDP merely serves as a guide for society players and should not be responsible for defining each specific role.
“The NDP ought to set a strategic direction for the country that will guide what government and business does. The MTFS is government’s way of saying this is what we plan to do for the next five years in implementing the NDP. We now expect the other sectors of society to do the same- develop a guide that is motivated by the NDP,” he explained.
“I don’t think it’s realistic for the NDP to detail what each sector of society should do as it’s meant to guide and provide a strategic direction that everybody should draw on in order to develop their own business strategies.”
Nyembezi-Heita, however believes that the business community and government need to have a certain level of joint action in order to implement the plan.
“We are tired of talking about the plan, we just want to implement it and ensure that the implementation framework is robust enough to deliver the results at the end of the day. It’s not that business wants to be told what to do or where to slot in within the NDP however if we are to deliver the ambition, there has to be a level of joint action,” she explained.
Godsell added however that a partnership between the two players has started.
“We have started a new presidential working group between business and government focusing on making existing regulation more effective.”