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Digital is one of the four network sectors identified in the NIP 2050 in which critical action is needed for sustained improvement in public infrastructure delivery. Picture: 123RF/drik
Digital is one of the four network sectors identified in the NIP 2050 in which critical action is needed for sustained improvement in public infrastructure delivery. Picture: 123RF/drik

Infrastructure development is a critical component of the government’s drive to reignite the SA economy and place it on a more sustainable and inclusive broad-based growth path.

Investment in public infrastructure is one of the non-negotiable foundations of transformation and growth if the country is to achieve greater productivity, increase its competitiveness, reduce spatial inequality and support job creation.

How can the National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) achieve this goal successfully?

During a recent Infrastructure SA webinar, hosted in partnership with Business Day, a panel of experts analysed the country’s plans for infrastructure delivery and discussed whether the government is meeting the targets that have been set — watch a recording of the event below.

Moderated by Clement Manyathela, this panel included:

  • Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, head of the investment and infrastructure office in the presidency and head of Infrastructure SA;
  • Monale Ratsoma, director-general of New Development Bank at the Africa Regional Centre;
  • Miriam Altman, leading economist, strategist and thought leader; and
  • Matthew Parks, parliamentary co-ordinator at Cosatu.

Ramokgopa said the recent catastrophic floods in KwaZulu-Natal proved that climate change had not been factored into infrastructure planning, that urbanisation had been allowed to proliferate in flood plains, and that infrastructure had been poorly designed and maintained.

“The state must occupy the centre,” he said, pointing to the excellence of SA Roads National Agency. Ramokgopo said it was unnecessary to outsource capacity, especially with the collaboration of the private sector.

However, of the 270 pipeline projects the state has committed to, only 50 have been completed, indicating that upstream investment is required. He revealed that his mandate has been extended to include maintenance in a bid to address the challenge of crumbling infrastructure. 

Asked about the government’s readiness for future disasters, Altman said resilience, tech-readiness and flexibility were essential to respond to such issues. The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) 2050 advocates a move from the rigid monopoly system to a flexible model with multiple players and new ideas. 

Fast fact

The first phase of the NIP 2050 identifies four network sectors in which critical action is needed for sustained improvement in public infrastructure delivery: energy, freight transport, water and digital.

Ratsoma said the fiscal involvement of private sector partners should be embraced. Monopolies, he said, are not broadly bad but they need to be modernised and policy must drive change.

He would like to see a “bold decision” being taken to put money on one large entity with economic multipliers. The system of municipal governance needs to be transformed for projects to appeal to financiers.

Parks applauded NIP 2050 but said he would like to see the government moving faster on implementation, job creation, transparency and local procurement.

Pension funds, he said, should be unlocked to make a meaningful contribution to the development of infrastructure, provided a “hawk’s eye” supervises the transactions to provide a balance between investment in social infrastructure and a reliable return for the members. 

One such opportunity, added Ramokgopa, would be in basic school infrastructure, nationally.

The panel agreed that the two most important commitments in the NIP 2050 are capacity development and transparency in reporting. Without leaders in place with the technical capability to oversee projects, the plan will fail.

Ratsoma pointed out that the World Bank oversees the money it lends, and that this could help with monitoring projects, preventing “leakage” of funds, and installing a culture of professionalism among public servants. 

Altman concluded by explaining that NIP 2050 is not a project but rather a system focused on continuously improving and constantly modernising, driving behaviour in government and supported by civil society “who need to participate in change and hold the government to account”. 

This article was paid for by Infrastructure SA.

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