The ANC does not need a New Deal

The ANC has developed a comprehensive National Development Plan to chart the way towards economic growth and inclusivity. It does not need an imported American concept, writes YONELA DIKO

The ANC does not need a New Deal. The DA can repackage Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and claim it as their policy, along with everything the Democratic Party in the United States has ever invented, even their colours and style. The ANC has its own consequential history and guiding documents that cannot easily be matched both in depth and in scope by any organisation in the world.

What the ANC needs, however, is to evaluate all its NEC terms and government, especially this outgoing NEC against its lofty aspirational policies as articulated in ANC conference resolutions and governing documents. It must determine whether this NEC stuck to these resolutions, whether they were able to accomplish any of them or as soon as the conference was over, they tossed them aside against the avalanche of day to day governing demands, never internalised, and inevitably never realised.

At the 53rd National Conference at Mangaung in 2012, the ANC constructed a clear framework and plan for both economic stimulation and economic transformation. In order to advance economic growth and economic transformation, the ANC Conference resolved that we must move with vigour and determination to implement the National Development Plan (NDP).

The ANC Mangaung Conference resolved on the following:

  • To give effect to the National Development Plan (NDP), and the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan with the aim of stimulating growth, employment and the re-industrialisation of the South African economy.
  • To increase state-led infrastructure investment aimed at massively improving social and economic infrastructure, with an emphasis on the use of local content and local companies,
  • To transform the mining sector with the aim of widening the benefits of South Africa’s abundance of minerals, including the creation of safe and decent work on the mines as well as benefits for near-mine local communities, as well as give particular focus to mineral beneficiation.
  • To promote youth employment, small business and co-operatives.
  • To build a developmental state with the technical and political capacity to lead development and transform the economy.
  • To maintain a supportive macroeconomic policy framework, oriented towards reconstruction, growth and development, and informed by the imperatives of sustainability and long-run macroeconomic stability.

As stated at the release of the NDP document, the main purpose of formulating the National Development Plan, besides the need to pull all the piece meal government policies that were guiding governments work up to that point into was to put together a galvanising document, to create policy clarity and Certainty.

The ANC understood then (and disappointingly seems to need a reminder now) that policy certainty is key to long-term investment. With policy certainty and sticking to such policies, The NDP envisages that combined investment by the private and public sectors would rise from then levels of around 19% of GDP to 30% of GDP.  Eight years later, we have instead lost more investments and drifted further and further into the abyss.

The NDP was clear that the developmental state’s most important task was to grow the South African economy as rapidly and as inclusively as possible. We understood then that through the various legislative, regulatory and programmatic instruments at government’s disposal the developmental state would be able to build public sector capabilities, provide parameters for the operation of market forces and guide the workings of private and state capital.

This was understood as the key ingredient to the creation of new economic relations, which will enable more South Africans to achieve their true human potential.

What has happened instead is that our legislation and regulatory instruments have felt more arbitrary, and counter-intuitive, almost standing in the way of economic growth than enabling it. In all our actions in the last five years, there has been no sense that we appreciate that in order to achieve the envisaged growth and transformation, the ANC led state would have to set the bar on all indices, performance, anti-corruption, investment friendly mechanisation, at least if we wanted the best out of others.

The NDP was clear that it was targeting a reduction of unemployment from 25% to around 6% by 2030. So when Deputh President Cyril Ramaphosa states his ambitions of reducing unemployment with specific percentages beginning in 2018, he must not associate such aspirations with an imagined New Deal. This is all stated in the NDP documents which were widely welcomed by all stakeholders in the country with a few noted discomforts. Ramaphosa was part of the formulation of the NDP so it is strange that, instead of invoking it he is presenting an American imported concept.

In 2012, the ANC was clear that it needs to reassert its vision and leadership of society through credible interventions to deracialise the South African economy, create significantly higher levels of employment and encourage inclusive economic growth, which will improve the lives and opportunities for all South Africans.

If we had begun in earnest to make this critical and decisive intervention, we would have avoided the polarising definition of the colour of monopoly capital. Our economy remains largely racialised, especially the ownership patterns. As supportive as I am of the mining charter, it feels rushed and populist at this stage, taking a ten year programme which would have put us at 50% black ownership on a gradual basis to a forceful 6% in 12 months.

All the troubled waters that we are drowning in today, from poor public sector capacity to corruption of the markets that result in industries fixing trade prices, to blatant collusion of businesses and government entities to embezzle the state could have been avoided if, as the NDP identified the threats to growth and transformation, we then moved quicker to develop mechanisms to curb and or minimise the chances of state embezzlement and looting.

What the ANC needs is the finest and most capable foot soldiers to swell all arms of the state and implement ANC policies to give us the results we know we should be getting.

Diko is a media strategist and consultant

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