Zubeida Jaffer writes:
Government ministers reported to conference yesterday on an administrative plan to ensure that all elements of economic planning speak as one voice.
Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, sketched an outline of how the National Development Plan and the Infrastructure roll-out plan will be part of a jointly administered arrangement.
He spoke after Trevor Manuel presented the National Democratic Plan to the full plenary of the conference for discussion in the commissions. Ebrahim Patel, who serves as Minister of Economic Development in the Zuma government, followed Manuel with a detailed presentation of the Infrastructure Roll-Out Plan at the centre of the New Growth Path.
Nkwinti’s presentation lay to rest the ongoing speculation that government was following different approaches to growing the economy.
Also part of the behind-the-scenes negotiations around details of the economic way forward is Jeremy Cronin who declined nomination to the NEC this week. Cronin, who is Deputy Minister of Public Administration and Land Reform, said that he expects there to be dissenting voices in the economic commission. Despite this he is convinced that the key outcomes at the Policy Conference in June 2012 will continue to lay the basis of the vision of the ANC. “We will accommodate some of Cosatu’s concerns as well as business concerns but essentially I don’t expect there to be major changes,” he said.
Cosatu wants a bold shift in the government’s macroeconomic framework. This means they want interest rates to be lowered by the Reserve Bank and want government to increase spending to stimulate the economy.
Government’s position, according to Ebrahim Patel, is that it will seek to get more value for its money. “We have to stop the leakage,” he said. “There are enormous challenges because we have such extreme poverty in our country.”
The greatest challenge will be to agree on a social pact where everyone has to give a little,” he said. “Neither Cosatu nor business are likely to get exactly what they want. In effect we are following an expansionary approach but this requires further coordination around wage bargaining,” he said.
Patel reported to conference that 670,000 new jobs had been created in the past two years since the launch of the New Growth Path. “This takes into account the job losses. Our net gain has been 670,000,” he said.
With the massive infrastructure roll-out plan already kick-started, Patel expects ongoing job growth within the next year. Two groups of delegates constitute the commission on the economy and will end their deliberations today.
**Cronin has confirmed that he, like Trevor Manuel, will continue to serve in government until the end of their term in 14 months time unless the president decides otherwise.