South African public sector workers during the recent strike. The workers have agreed to return to their jobs.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Creating decent work opportunities
The creation of decent work opportunities will be the primary focus of the ANC's economic policies over the next five years. This was one of the decisions of the ANC 52nd National Conference held in Polokwane in December.
The conference also agreed on the need to build an effective, democratic and developmental state, which "whilst learning from the experiences of others, must be built on the solid foundation of South African realities." The resolution on economic transformation noted that the central and most pressing challenges the country faces are unemployment, poverty and inequality. This demanded that South Africa must simultaneously accelerate economic growth and transform the quality of that growth.
"The changes we seek will not emerge spontaneously from the 'invisible hand' of the market. People acting collectively in the spirit of human solidarity must shape the patterns of economic development. In this process the state must play a central and strategic role, by directly investing in underdeveloped areas and directing private sector investment," conference said.
It said that this should be state which leads and guides that economy and which intervenes in the interest of the people as a whole. While engaging private capital strategically, government must be rooted among the people and buttressed by a mass-based democratic liberation movement. While determining a clear and consistent path forward, it must also seek to build consensus on a democratic basis that builds national unity; and while acting to promote growth, efficiency and productivity, it must be equally effective in addressing the social conditions of the people and realising economic progress for the poor.
All of this would require a concerted effort to improve the capacity of government and all public institutions to undertake these tasks. Conference resolved to achieve this through:
A strengthened role for the central organs of state, including through the creation of an institutional centre for government-wide economic planning;
the alignment of planning and implementation across all three spheres of government, and with the development finance institutions and state-owned enterprises;
building the human capacity of the state by establishing uniform entrance requirements and standards of employment in the public service;
building the technical capacity of the state to lead the development of dynamic and globally integrated economic sectors;
maintaining a strategic role in shaping the key sectors of the economy, including minerals and energy and the national transport and logistics system;
ensuring that our national resources, including land, water, minerals and marine resources, are exploited to effectively maximise growth, development and employment potential;
ensuring state owned enterprises respond to a clearly defined public mandate and an overarching industrial;
strengthening development finance institutions that are able to channel financial and institutional resources towards a variety of economic transformation objectives.
Building on the improved rates of economic growth achieved over the last few years, the ANC will act decisively to address the most significant obstacles that limit the pace of economic growth and intervene in favour of a more equitable growth path. Many of these obstacles have already been identified as part of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (ASGISA), and work has already begun to address these.
The ANC will also continue to roll out a massive state-led infrastructure investment programme that will significantly improve the country's logistics, energy and communications capacity. It will also promote strategic investments in productive activities, aimed at diversifying the economy and improving the ratio of investment to GDP.
Transforming the economy
The challenge facing South Africa is not only about the acceleration of economic growth. It is also about transforming the structures of production and ownership, which still exhibit the features of the apartheid era.
Among other things, this will require an active and well-resourced industrial and trade policy aimed at creating decent work through expansion of labour absorbing sectors, diversifying our industrial and services base, pursuing an active beneficiation strategy, building sustainable export industries, and expanding production for domestic and regional consumption. According to conference: "In general, industrial policy should lead our overall approach to sector development, whilst trade policy should play a supporting role and be sensitive to employment outcomes."
The ANC should continue to pursue broad-based black economic empowerment, aimed at broadening and deracialising the ownership and control of productive assets by black people, women and youth; promoting new black enterprises which are engaged in the production of goods and services; building the skills required by the economy; and advancing employment equity in every area of work.
To broaden ownership and participation in the economy, and to overcome barriers to entry that inhibit the growth of small enterprises, the ANC will concentrate on implementing effective anti-monopoly and anti-concentration policy aimed at creating competitive markets. It will also pursue policies that promote and sustain small business, micro-enterprises, small scale agriculture and cooperative forms of ownership by providing financial and non-financial resources and building institutions that can effectively access and develop these sectors.
The work being done to deepen economic development and effect thorough transformation needs to be accompanied by measures to directly and immediately address the economic plight of the poor and unemployed. This must include expanding the opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and supporting the growth of second economy activities in urban centres through better access to the centres of economic growth and through financial and institutional support for cooperatives and micro-enterprise.
Critically, it must also address the poverty and underdevelopment that afflicts the rural areas of our country. The resolution therefore calls for a comprehensive and clear rural development strategy, which builds the potential for rural sustainable livelihoods, particularly for African women, as part of an overarching vision of rural development. "Strong interventions in the private land market combined with better use of state land for social and economic objectives, must transform the patterns of land ownership and agrarian production, with a view to restructuring and deracialising the agricultural sector," it says.
Measures to directly absorb the unemployed into economic activity will include labour intensive production methods and procurement policies; a significant expansion of public works programmes linked to the expansion of economic infrastructure and meeting social needs; a much larger national youth service, linking industrial strategy with key youth development programmes; and programmes that target the employment of women. This will happen alongside the expansion of the "social wage" by ensuring universal and subsidised access to basic services, health care, and affordable transport; free and compulsory education and ongoing campaigns for adult literacy; maintaining and, where appropriate, expanding the provision of social grants; and finding ways of alleviating the burden of low income earners.
The vision of the economic transformation articulated by the Polokwane conference takes as its starting point the Freedom Charter's clarion call that the people shall share in the country's wealth! It is a process of economic transformation which aims to realise a thriving and integrated economy, which draws on the creativity and skills that our whole population can offer, building on South Africa's economic endowments to create decent work for all and eliminate poverty.
** This is the second in a series of articles on the outcomes of the ANC's Polokwane Conference. The complete set of resolutions will be available on the ANC website within the next week.