The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) is encouraged by the South African government’s commitment to driving infrastructure development and creating job opportunities as pillars for socio-economic growth.
These pillars were two of the four key priorities of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address on 11 February 2021.
The President pointed out an investment project pipeline worth R340-billion across the energy, water, transport, and telecommunications space, which he said is necessary to reviving the construction industry and to create job opportunities.
“Government’s commitment to infrastructure development and recognising its inherent value in developing our economy is encouraging,” Vishaal Lutchman, SAICE CEO states.
The President’s speech highlighted that the country appears to be on the right trajectory path towards economic growth, however, Lutchman stresses that the real ingredients underpinning success across the different sectors and projects, including infrastructure, are for policy and procurement processes to be aligned, integrated and cohesive.
“South Africa is renowned for some of the best policies and processes globally but due to various challenges, our implementation often slows progress. We need a common vision that all stakeholders can work towards, a vision that is home-grown, and one that focuses not only on what needs to be done, but more strategically on how it should be done.”
SAICE, a significant role player in infrastructure development in South Africa with strategic competencies to help innovate, stresses that this common vision is necessary for addressing the current fiscal imbalance in the economy and achieving the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP).
SAICE further welcomes the President’s focus on the development of the local economy, including SMME business development, manufacturing, industrialisation, and human settlement projects.
However, they advise that government must give strategic thought to how it prioritises the development of several sectors as well as local manufacturing as an economic stimulus. “While it is encouraging that the President speaks to supporting and developing local manufacturing, the country’s procurement approach does not align to this – the basic principle is to go for the cheapest price first. This again demonstrates that despite the great initiatives employed to develop South Africa, our policies and processes do not speak to each other.”
“Disconnected procurement and policy processes, and a government and private sector that are not in sync will make it difficult for the country to achieve the true objectives of the NDP, ” explains Lutchman.
The current crisis is a “perfect opportunity” to build South Africa, says Lutchman. He adds that the momentum and synergy of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic is also pivotal for how we deal with the country’s second pandemic – the economic one.
“Despite the corruption surrounding the personal protective equipment tenders, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how the country can truly come together in a time of crisis. It has brought to the forefront the expertise of our healthcare and scientific professionals. Let us capitalise on using the expertise of both the public and private sectors and carry this momentum over to dealing with the economic pandemic – let us strategise, collaborate and innovate to navigate the country through these unprecedented economic times.”