State investment in infrastructure continues to bolster the economy

Despite tough economic conditions at home and abroad, government has invested over R1 trillion in critical infrastructure projects that are changing the landscape of this country, writes JESSIE DUARTE

MORE South Africans today have access to running water, electricity, homes, access to public schools, state-run clinics and hospitals than ever before. Much has been accomplished for a broader section of our population during the past two decades and the government is fully aware that much more still needs to be done to ensure that, especially the poorest of the poor, have an improved quality of life.

The South African government through various programmes and initiatives, whether in the short-, medium- or long-term, will continue to push through its mandate of a developmental state by spending money to uplift its people. According to the South African Reserve Bank, government spending increased to R632bn in the first quarter of 2016, up from R631bn in the fourth quarter of 2015. Further data also revealed that government spending averaged R304bn from 1960 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of R632bn in the first quarter of 2016 and a record low of R66bn in the first quarter of 1960. Also, government and public agencies invested more than R1 trillion in infrastructure between 2009 and 2014.

The investments were in energy, road, rail, ports, public transport, bulk water and sanitation, hospitals, basic and higher education infrastructure and projects such as the Square Kilometre Array and Meerkat telescopes.

Some clear successes through the government’s strategic integrated projects since 2012 included:

  • Broadband Infraco invested in an international undersea cable, western Africa cable system linking South Africa and Europe and providing the state with the ability to provide broadband infrastructure to national projects such as the Square Kilometre Array.
  • The partial impoundment for the De Hoop Dam which supplies water for domestic and mining use in the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn district municipalities. A total of 2.3 million people in the domestic sector will benefit from this project.
  • The Dwarsloop-Acornhoek steel pipeline which supplies water to nine rural communities in the Bushbuckridge local municipality.
  • The 675km of electricity transmission lines that were laid in 2013 is the most in more than 20 years.

It has been pointed out in the budget this year that all our metropolitan municipalities are undertaking a portfolio of catalytic, integrated urban development projects that will lead the way in reshaping our cities:

  • In eThekwini, the Cornubia mixed development node will yield 25000 housing units, while more than R13bn in private sector investment in the nearby Dube Trade Port has been identified. A R30bn inner city regeneration programme is under way.
  • In Ekurhuleni, development along the corridor linking Tembisa to Kempton Park has been prioritised.
  • Cape Town has adopted a transit-orientated development strategy including mixed-use development of the Bellville transport interchange, upgrade of the Phillipi East station precinct and the redevelopment of the Athlone power station.
  • In Mangaung, the airport development node is under construction and 8 500 affordable housing units will be built in and around the inner city of Bloemfontein.
  • In Johannesburg, there is further progress with the corridors of freedom linking Soweto, Alexandra, Sandton and the CBD. This includes the new bridges that can be seen on the M1. We have also seen substantial investment in township precincts in response to the neighbourhood development partnership grant where 190 projects have been completed and a further 55 are in construction.
  • In the Joubertina/Alabama hub in Matlosana, for example, an NDP investment in transport and health facilities has been accompanied by commercial investment commitments of about R155m.
  • In the Solomon Mahlangu node in Tshwane, which serves more than 500000 people, a R1bn public investment in roads, parks and trading facilities is expected to leverage R4bn in private investment. While it has been documented, it is well worth reminding ourselves of these projects.

As mentioned earlier, much still needs to be done and the South African government continues to take a long-term view, underpinned by the development goals as set out in the National Development Plan which, among others, seeks to transform the economy. It is perhaps necessary to remind ourselves that tough economic times, at home and abroad bring their own challenges and opportunities so growth forecasts and government spending are adjusted accordingly.

As was reflected in the past few years’ budgets, the government will seek to address public sector infrastructure bottlenecks through reform and capacity building, with capital expenditure by the public sector projected at just over R865bn in the next three years. The government recognises and has never been averse to the reality that it cannot address South Africa’s economic and development challenges alone. The government intends to and indeed has in the recent past, markedly increased its engagement and collaboration with business, labour and civil society to bolster the resilience of the economy.

The government will continue to drive its partnership with the private sector to co-invest in infrastructure and skills development. After all, the government’s primary objective is the well-being of its citizenry. Investments in additional power-generating capacity and independent power producers will increase electricity supply and improve reliability. The government will always use the people’s satisfaction or otherwise as a true yardstick of how far we have come.

Duarte is Deputy Secretary General of the ANC

This article first appeared in Real Politik www.realpolitik.org.za

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