IS the National Development Plan (NDP) realistic? Has it assumed adequately all the relevant issues (such as energy cost, climate change and environment degradation) that ought to be resolved?
I believe not. The government has for various reasons kept the same economic paradigm inherited from the apartheid regime.
The NDP is still based on the premise of a GDP growth of 5% “that will trickle down to the people”.
First, there is no way the government can be certain to secure at least 5% growth. Many GDP factors such as commodities’ prices, rand value and direct investment are controlled at global level.
Second, this also forces the government to be quiet about the externalised costs (environmental damages and labour servitude) and “collateral damages” of the system’s cruel competition. It is the same top down, condescending, disenfranchising system.
Why would we keep the same inadequate system? Pressure of captains of industry? Vested interests? Lack of understanding, vision and commitment? Or all of these?
Many good things have been done, such as a top constitution, abundant water, sanitation, electricity connections, social grants, free houses, basic services and easy access to education. But for what cost to sustainability and resilience?
Is it sustainable to connect water, sewage and electricity to the same old systems, which are often at limited capacity or cause numerous environmental issues? Wasn’t it the opportunity to research locally produced services to achieve a real “sustainable human settlement”?
Short term thinking, emphasis on quantity (over quality), increased marginalisation and the easy way out (instead of long term sustainable solutions that maximise people’s involvement and minimalise state involvement and responsibility) seem to be the common denominators.
Instead of indefinite social grants to alleviate poverty, we should have limited them time wise and built up an alternative (such as a real local economy) that would phase them out. We have to balance increased unsustainability and dependencies with the grant’s positive effects on poverty while rendering people resilient.
The government has became expert in articulating nice stories out of a bad script. We pretend, promise, fill potholes with sand and hope that free services, houses and food parcels will keep people quiet as long as possible.
In the meantime, real issues such as labour bondage, climate change and energy cost that require drastic changes towards a bottom up, low carbon development and resilient society are not dealt with adequately. We need a visionary and courageous leadership that recognises the dangerous state of affairs and moves toward a sustainable future.
Pierrelouis Lemercier, Port Elizabeth