The National Development Plan – Some Thoughts on the High-level Objectives

Continuing the discussion started earlier this week on the National Development Plan for South Africa, this posting will further address some of the associated elements of the PLAN. I firmly believe that all citizens of our country, regardless of social or financial standing, political affiliation, or education, should be involved in getting the plan come to life. This is a big ask, but is imperative if we want to succeed as a country and a new nation.

As one would expect, the National Planning Committee (NPC) has formulated two high-level objectives, which are to be achieved by 2030:

  • Reduce the number of people who live in households with a monthly income below R419 per person (in 2009) from 39% to zero.
  • Reduce inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, from 0.69 to 0.6.

Before further interrogating the above objectives, I think we need to see what the requirements for a well-formulated objective are. As with everything in life, there are multiple ideas on this topic, but I have decided to approach it from the business perspective. Various authors indicate that objectives need to be formulated according to the SMART approach; the letters of the acronym represent the requirements for objectives to be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-scaled.

Let us take a closer look at these objectives in terms of the SMART requirement.

Firstly, the above-mentioned high-level objectives are quite specific in terms of what they aim to achieve. This is a positive start, and one can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the NPC to identify these high-level objectives.

Secondly, the two objectives need to be measureable. This also seems to be achieved in terms of the formulation of the objectives. The first objective refers to eradicating poverty and the NPC has provided an indication of how this will be measured. In relation to the concept of inequality, they also identified a specific level to be attained. The 2 high-level objectives therefore seem to meet the second requirement of the SMART approach.

Thirdly, to ensure that an objective is achievable, there is a need to take a careful look at the country’s capabilities in terms of reaching the stated objectives. This is where the process – and the objectives – is to be challenged. Whether conducting research or implementing strategic plans, one is always challenged to take a deliberate and often painful look at your capabilities. Yes, the PLAN is to move ahead and enhance capabilities, but as a country we need to take an open and honest look at our current capabilities – is there a sufficient basis from which stakeholders in our National Development Plan can work towards achieving the high-level objectives? This challenge will be revisited in future postings.

Fourthly, the set objectives need to be realistic. This is yet another of those requirements, which has the ability to stop a process in its tracks. The NPC would have been tasked to determine whether South Africa and its various resources, people, and all other known and unknown factors, would enable the PLAN to become reality. If the country were run as a business, chances are that the board of directors would have said the risk outweighs the possible benefits; as a country, we have no option but to embark on this journey. Therefore, whether the PLAN is fully realistic will be determined by numerous factors; we are all challenged to make it realistic.

Lastly, the objectives need to be presented in terms of a time scale. The current challenges South Africa is facing are the result of many decades of improper, self-centred decisions, which were not made for the greater good. Although it is hugely challenging to determine whether the objectives can be achieved in roughly 17 years, the indication of a time scale implies that the objectives also meet this requirement of the SMART approach.

In conclusion, the two high-level objectives that were formulated by the NPC do seem to loosely meet the requirements of the SMART approach to the formulation of objectives. The following posting will take a closer look at the two high-level objectives of the NPC. These discussions should enable us to properly interrogate the finer details of the PLAN.

I look forward to hearing any comments on the above thoughts. As South Africans we are called to action and to do our share. Merely criticising the government of the day is totally insufficient as response – making the PLAN work by 2030 requires concerted efforts by all.


4 thoughts on “The National Development Plan – Some Thoughts on the High-level Objectives”

  1. Hennie, thanks for bringing this important topic to our the attention of the forum. To venture a couple of thoughts, I would say that I agree with your assessment on the realistic and achievable elements of the plan. Change has to happen and any ideas that work to unlock the creativity, productivity and potential of South Africans should be given the highest priority.

    However, you are also correct in assessing the costs vs. benefits of the plan. My main concerns on these types of government interventions centre on two questions: 1) who’s going to pay for it and 2) what is it going to cost. Considering the poor performance of the Gautrain (now costing R 300 million in tax p.a.), and the E-toll (scam grid), I think it’s reasonable to be critical of the state’s demonstrable ability to manage such projects. (They could not even take textbooks from point A to Point B, why should we trust them with trillion rand projects?)

    The above mentioned projects are now a drag on the taxpayer. Too much public debt and taxation, erodes the productive capacity of the real economy. Government will have to borrow or tax to get this plan done. (Often, with these types of state projects, the only real winners are the guys that extend the credit for the projects.)

    For such a plan to work, it will really have to be managed from a strict business perspective with the potential of generating positive and profitable returns. If they cannot do so, the upkeep and malinvestment of poorly thought through projects will further work against growing the productive economy in a real way.

    We definitely need the improvements, but we cannot use infinite amounts of taxpayer funds or debt on it. Money is limited, and if it is wasted it will be lost. Too much debt easily turns nations into a Greece, that’s my concern in more than a few words.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Gerhard. I agree 100% with the comments you are making. If one follows the news and then considers the fact that Government aims to achieve all of those objectives, one cannot help but feel cynical. In times like these, regular South Africans will be called to a higher duty – finding ways to get the change initiative going. Let us get the debate going – by participating and not sitting back, things can change for the better. I will continue commenting on the National Development Plan in my next postings.

  3. Pingback: Amedar
    1. Thank you for the positive feedback – it is fully appreciated. We will keep on saying what we think needs to be said, since we are really passionate about our country and its future. We hope to see you back again soon!

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