National Development Plan (NDP): “A plan is only as good as its delivery mechanism is viable”
This gathering of minds happened at SAICE House in April. Piroshaw Camay chaired the meeting and introduced the panellists. They were Trueman Goba (National Planning Commissioner, Executive Chairman of Goba Consulting and President of SAICE in 2002), Malani Padayachee-Saman (Founder and CEO of MPA (Pty) Ltd) and Dr Ron Watermeyer (President of SAICE in 2004), who led the discussions. All agreed that the NDP was an excellent document.
The NDP identifies nine priority areas of which five have direct bearing on civil engineering:
- Creating jobs and livelihoods
- Transforming society and uniting a nation
- Fighting corruption and enhancing accountability
- Transforming urban and rural spaces, and
- Expanding infrastructure
Piroshaw Camay introduced the subject by highlighting a number of aspects of the NDP, i.e. that we are the champions of our own development; the theme of community involvement throughout the Plan and the high priority of increasing employment, as well as the quality of education.
Malani Padayachee-Saman regretted the fact that the construction sector was not identified as one of the labour-absorbing industries, such as the manufacturing sector. The construction industry is capable of creating employment in a fairly short time.
She emphasised that she is first and foremost a civil engineer who is passionate about her job. She is also an entrepreneur. She explained that her success lay in the potential of the ageing market. She had the wisdom to employ ageing engineers when she started her business. However, the matching of young and ‘old’ engineers is a managed process. She stated that the situation regarding capacity – related issues in the public sector, and specifically local government, had worsened considerably over the last years.
Trueman Goba explained that immediate action had to be taken regarding the basics, i.e. toilets, clinics, schools, etc., because, if nothing is done about that within the next five years, the country will be in serious trouble. He stated further that within five years we should not even be talking about corruption – it needs to be eradicated by that time. He reiterated that government is committed in this regard and as illumination, he mentioned the dissatisfaction of communities with the level or lack of service delivery, even resulting in violence. It is his view that government cannot but be concerned.
Dr Ron Watermeyer started by saying that we need to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. He explained that failure to address the challenges is likely to result in economic decline, falling living standards, rising competition for resources, and social tension.
He read the definition of civil engineering by Herbert Hoover, president of the United States (1929-1933): There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer's high privilege.
Watermeyer identified the main challenges in the Plan as: too few people who work; the standard of education for most black learners is of poor quality; poor quality infrastructure is poorly located, under-maintained and insufficient to foster higher growth; spatial patterns exclude the poor from the fruits of development; the economy is overly and unsustainably resource – intensive; a widespread disease burden is compounded by a failing public health system; public services are uneven and often of poor quality; corruption is widespread, and South Africa remains a divided society.
Of the 2030 Vision he said, “Many short-term responses to skills shortages do little to address long-term capacity constraints. Consultants can be brought in to design and build infrastructure, but without in-house technical expertise, provincial and local governments lack the capacity to ensure the work is done to an adequate standard or to maintain the infrastructure once the work has been completed.”
What role can SAICE play in Vision 2030?
Watermeyer recommended that SAICE should do the following:
- Produce civil engineering standards and tools (need to become a standards development organisation).
- Develop planning skills, tools, techniques, etc., which are capable of integrating with and being understood by other disciplines and decision-makers.
- Accredit and recognise specialist civil engineering skills including those relating to planning, procurement and delivery management. SAICE should become the technical specialists and should accredit these specialists.
- Build for the long-term.
Padayachee-Saman’s solutions as to how SAICE could be involved to ensure that the NDP objectives are realised, were:
- SAICE should offer its expertise to government in a transparent, non-competitive manner to assist government in achieving its goals.
- Real issues could be addressed through SAICE members’ involvement and participation in community forums, and liaison with ward councillors where they could have a huge influence. This could also ensure buy-in from government.
She continued to say that in developmental issues the above constituted the difference between the SAICE professionals and consultants. She also stated that with the R77-billion Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) short-term intervention, civil engineers have a chance to ‘untap opportunities’, thus assisting in job creation to achieve the 11-million jobs by 2030.
On a question from the floor, Goba reiterated that government is indeed committed, but that it is not able to address the challenges on its own; hence the discussion. The big question is how SAICE can become part of the solution.
The general feeling among the fifty-strong audience was that the NDP was an excellent document, but that, as Minister Trevor Manuel had said, “A plan is only as good as its delivery mechanism is viable”.
In conclusion, the views of the panel on the NDP gave everyone much to consider. It became evident that the successful implementation of the NDP will rely heavily on industry and the input of civil engineering professionals. Essentially the success of the NDP will depend on to what extent the civil engineering profession would be allowed to make its vital contribution.
Camay concluded by saying that what SAICE needed was its own 2030 Vision.
Should you wish to have more information on the event, please watch the ‘Civil Talk’ video!
The Civil Talk Panel, from left to right : Phiroshaw Camay, Trueman Goba, Malani Padayachee-Saman and Dr Ron Watermeyer