Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, today tackled the topic of philosophical and practical challenges facing South Africa at the launch of the fifth edition of the Coega Perspectives journal.
“Perspectives was initiated five years ago by the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) in collaboration with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) as a tool for stimulating debate among professionals, specialists and young academics on issues of industrial and economic development,” said Ayanda Vilakazi, CDC head of marketing and communications.
“This year the journal takes cognisance of the 20th anniversary of South African democracy, under the topic, ‘Development is Freedom: Development ideas after 20 years of freedom’.”
Gordhan took the opportunity of speaking to thinkers in the Eastern Cape to problematise “critical economic issues of our time”.
Speaking extensively on a range of economic and socio-political matters, Gordhan said the opportunity to connect the three communities of academia, consultancy and implementers – something Perspectives has successfully endeavoured to do over the past five years – was “a very valuable initiative”.
“Our own economy is at a critical conjuncture where we have huge opportunities to advance… but what we must avoid is to become smug cynics. We need to mobilise all our resources across all sorts of barriers in order to truly fulfil the ambitions of the National Development Plan (NDP) so that all across South Africa can benefit,” Gordhan said.
“But there are a couple of diseases we need to deal with. The first is short-termism, which leads to impatience and in turn leads to false expectations. Another is planning. The importance of long-term planning is critical as we need a clear long-term road map informed by one year plans that will take us there. Finally we need to fight greed.
“Ultimately, we need to become better implementers – we must start delivering things concretely and effectively – so we can learn lessons from shortcomings and grow.”
He encouraged business, government and other institutions to enhance “internal convergence” and aggressively co-promote and support South African development, particularly that of export, industrialisation, human capital and medium and small business development.
Gordhan was upbeat about the progress South Africa had made over the past 20 years, driving home the point that integrated nations, such as the United Kingdom, Greece and the United States of America, had had hundreds, if not thousands of years to perfect the state.
“Compared to other states we are only 20 years old. It is therefore important for us to ask what does it mean to build an effective state mechanism and what does it take to build inclusive institutions as opposed to what I can call extractive institutions. Sometimes we are too busy with micro issues to think about the macro picture.”
“Perhaps we are victims of our own successes – we have done well to establish a democratic state… but we have to ask ourselves where our lapses are, why we have not been able to see some of the opportunities around us and why, at times, we are lagging behind our peers.
“Not all explanations lies in global economic system or crisis, some lie in our own history and structural fault lines there,” said Gordhan mentioning three key factors hampering development: lack of co-ordinated planning between institutions, poor stewardship over some departments and municipalities and the lack of development of some sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, fishing and tourism.
Nevertheless, according to the minster, opportunities are abundant and progress underway.
“The NDP is being implemented and the 2014 budget is aligned with this [implementation] – it’s not just a plan, but something that is really being implemented.
“The past and future are both important elements [for South Africa], but our focus needs to change to saying we have a clear idea of where we are going. We need clear grasp of what it takes to actually deliver on our ideas,” he said mentioning the need to improve public infrastructure, “get more investment and deal with spatial arrangement of our cities” – all consideration of the NDP.
Gordhan ended his address to about 100 stakeholders from Nelson Mandela Bay by emphasizing that ideas and institutions do matter, arguing that initiatives such as Perspectives enhance the power of thinking, problem-solving and implementation for real South African development.
NMMU‘s Professor Richard Haines said Perspectives aims to stimulate debate: “The initiative is about optimising our resources – including our intellectual capacity – to enhance communication, imagination and interaction. That’s why we need to look at broader possibilities for interaction and dialogue. This type of interaction and debate does make a difference. Institutional interaction, such as that between the CDC and NMMU, lays the foundation for real economic development.”
The journal included submissions from both leading experts, economists and emerging thought leaders and established and young academics and included the likes of Njabulo Sithebe, Professor Hendrik Lloyd, Dr Herman Asemtsa, Vukani Nkasa, Professor Gavin Bradshaw, Ntsikelelo Breakfast, Semiyou Rafiou, Siphamandla Gumbi, Professor Richard Haines, Idriss Mouchili, Ed Richardson, Amanda van den Burg, Danai Tembo, Emma Hay, Amy Shelver, David Gate, Eddie Russel, Pauline Dibben, Msimelelo Febana, Songezo Mdoda and Nonzamo Kolo.
“Through initiatives such as Perspectives the future of young intellectual talent, which is being nourished and accumulated by the CDC, is bright. Perspectives continues to play a major role in stimulating collaborative social capital in terms of analytics and research capacity,” added Haines.