South Africa may very well be an sickly patient – weighed down by high unemployment along with a poor education system – however its problems are by no means terminal, the Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Planning, Trevor Manuel, explained.
He was speaking against the backdrop of the release of a document that plots the country’s key long-term challenges.
During a media briefing in Parliament prior to addressing the National Assembly, Manuel explained that the National Planning Commission’s diagnostic overview would assist South Africans to contribute to and play a role in the drafting of Vision 2030, which happens to be scheduled for release in November.
Manuel compared the diagnostic overview to a doctor taking care of a patient who explains to them they are sick but that they wouldn’t die.
“It is not pleasing, however at the same time, it is similar to visiting a doctor and he suggests ‘you are certainly not well, however it is not terminal’,” he quipped, adding that South Africa could possibly have gone much the same way as Libya and other countries, but had elected not to do so.
He said if it was going to be successful, the commission found it necessary to get all South Africans interested and involved in making the country a better place.
“There were things we couldn’t carry out and we did it. And now we are saying to South Africans – ‘this is what lies before us, let’s turn this country around and come to terms about what confronts us as a nation,” he said.
He explained the diagnostic overview acknowledged the advancement South Africa had made since 1994 – for instance the broadening household services, growing participation of black people in tertiary education as well as transformation of the top 20 percent of income earners – but sets out what still needs to be accomplished.
These are grouped according to nine challenges: high unemployment, poor educational outcomes, a high disease burden, divided communities, uneven public-service performance, settlement patterns that marginalise the poor, corruption, an overly resource-intensive economy and crumbling infrastructure.
Key element among these are unemployment and poor education, said Manuel.
The diagnostic overview highlights that on going lack of employment is influenced by a number of variables, which includes growth in the labour force having outstripped employment creation, deficiencies in skilled people to serve a modern economy in addition to the fact that almost 60 % of unemployed individuals have never worked.
Additional factors associated with the country’s unemployment problem is that the majority of jobs have been created in skills-intensive sectors, salary increase have frequently surpassed growth in productivity and the country’s business environment has often constrained the expansion or start-up of small businesses.
In education, the diagnostic discloses that just one percent of black African schools were actually ranked as top-performing schools, while 88 % happen to be in dire condition.
This compares to formerly privileged schools in the country, where 31 percent are ranked as top performing, and 49 percent as poor performing schools.
The diagnostic overview singles out the overall performance of teachers and leadership at schools as the most crucial factors when it comes to enhancing the quality of education in black African schools.
It shows that when tested in the self-same subjects they taught to pupils, teachers scored less than the minimum scores expected from the average pupil. By way of example those teaching maths in grades four to six, scored on average 33 percent.
Manuel pointed out in moving forward in finding answers to the country’s challenges, the commission had held 36 meetings, including 10 plenaries since 11 May 2010 (since its inaugural meeting).
In crafting the diagnostic overview, the 26 commissioners organised a week-long online forum with youth, along with various consultations with political parties, trade unions and experts.
A public comments period will operate between now and September to provide for South Africans to get familiar with and take part in the drafting of Vision 2030.
The commission is additionally likely to release a development plan which sets out how this vision is going to be accomplished, as well as release reports on issues having an effect on long-term development, such as infrastructure investment, water resources and inequality.
Manuel said the commission had not resolved whether or not it would be developing a general five-year plan when it came to long-term planning or it would break this up into individual sector reports.
To view, contribute and make public comments on the National Planning Commission’s diagnostic overview visit www.npconline.co.za