Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Nation

My apologies for the lack of updates, I will have to offer the feeble, sad and sorry excuse of being swamped by work deadlines, I am being sent to Cape Town next week and will get back to Joburg on the 18th of Feb, so no more blogging until then - and then I will endevour to make a concerted effort to blog on a daily basis.

Next week friday President Mbeki will give his State of the Nation address, I don't think there will be any major surprises but then again there is always the chance of the unexpected. In his May 2004 State of the Nation address, after being re-elected, the president in a first since ANC rule, gave out an extensive list of detailed promises, many of them with timeframes and there are high expectations that he will report back on government progress. I think the ANC government has made modest gains over the past year in terms of economic growth, and service delivery but I also think that this has been more at the level of policy formulation and trying to put the right structures in place, than actual implementation. Houses have been built, water and electricity connections made, but not enough to cope with the staggering backlogs. Of course corruption and public service maladministration has been a huge problem, particularly at the provincial level and even more staggeringly so at the local government level. In this light I think that we can expect to hear Mbeki come out strongly against his public servants and officials and really emphasizing the need to fast track delivery - the ANC faces local government elections towards the end of this year or early next year, also Mbeki will want to finish his last term on a positive note. Whether poor delivery will actually influence ANC voters to make a change when it comes to the crunch is another story but I think Mbeki at least has some sense of duty and of wanting to carry out the ANC ideals forged during apartheid to make a better life for his people. If anything, Mbeki wants to prove to Africa, and to the rest of the world that an African government can be truly successful and he wants to keep South Africa moving forward as a regional power in his efforts to unite the rest of the continent into an eventual economic force.

Ultimately, if the government is ever going to truly alleviate poverty it has to create jobs, and although the economic growth we've seen over the past ten years has created new jobs, it has not created enough jobs to cater for all the new job seekers entering the labour market. Also the government has failed dismally in it's education and training delivery so while skilled labour is in high demand in certain sectors the human resources aren't there. I think we should also consider some of the immense challenges that the government faces in beating the backlog - lack of infrastructure and the huge costs fixing this involves, when it comes to service delivery - there have been challeges involved in trying to efficiently intergrate the three levels of government - national, provincial and local. Also, service delivery has to be sustainable to keep up with the backlog - operational costs have to be considered, it's no use building a house, providing electricity and then evicting people because they can't afford to pay their bills, this is not going to eliminate the backlog in the longterm. Population is increasing all the time, demographics are constantly changing and household sizes are becoming smaller meaning that more houses have to be built. Over the past few years, an enormous amount of work has gone into formulating the right policies to deal with South Africa's socio-economic situation, but it's a unique situation - there's no blueprint for success for the government to follow, so there is a level of trial and error. Of course, I will have to bring up the ugly corruption word here again, because I don't think that the government will attain credibility in it's efforts to deliver (and I do think that the government deserves a certain level of credibility in this regard) without seriously trying to combat corruption, financial mismanagement, cronyism etc


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