Honourable Members, Citizens:
The National Assembly is about to begin its debate on the budget of our Minister of Finance.
It had seemed right that before the Honourable Minister makes his remarks, we should say something about the broader framework which encompasses the important announcements he will make.
That broader framework is the Reconstruction and Development Programme. This remains the policy anchor on which all government programmes have been and will continue to be based.
As this House knows, the Reconstruction and Development Programme is about the fundamental transformation of our society in all its aspects.
It has to do with the construction of a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and stable South Africa positioned within the rest of the world community not as the pariah of the past but as a responsible international citizen and an example of what a people-centred society should be.
The RDP is therefore not a conglomeration of particular projects, but an integrated and sustainable vision for the creation of the post-apartheid society for which so many of our people sacrificed everything, including their lives.
Its abiding feature is revolutionary change. Its ethos is an all-pervasive optimism for a better life for all our people.
The vision it spelt out challenged all of us as South Africans, within government, the private and the non-governmental sectors to address five critical areas, namely:
- meeting the basic needs of the people;
- developing our human resources;
- building the economy;
- democratising the state and society; and,
- implementing programmes to achieve these objectives.
Members are aware that in February of this year, the Intergovernmental Forum, bringing together central and provincial governments, and following its meeting in November 1995, met here in Cape Town to discuss a growth and development strategy for the accomplishment of the vision spelt out in the Reconstruction and Development Programme.
At that February meeting this is what we said:
“The National Growth and Development Strategy will take the RDP forward by setting out concrete steps that will accelerate growth and development and hence reach our targets of reducing poverty, increasing employment and improving the quality of life of our people.”
Earlier in the same speech we pointed out that “The draft before (the Forum) must also be viewed as an elaboration of the RDP base document and not its substitute.”
Among other things and to give concrete expression to the vision contained in the RDP, that draft spoke of a sustained annual growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product of at least 6 per cent by the year 2 000 and the creation, annually, of between 300,000 and 500,000 new employment opportunities by the end of this century.
In addition, it identified other areas of focus including:
- national crime prevention to secure life and property;
- a system of social security and social development;
- investment in the social and economic infrastructure;
- restructuring the public sector and the state; and,
- investing in people for human resource development.
On the occasion of the assembly of the Intergovernmental Forum 4 months ago, we indicated that we would be reporting to the nation and government on work done at various times during the course of this year.
The debate today provides an appropriate occasion for us to report on work done in the elaboration of the macro-economic framework that both provides the perimeters of all our future socio-economic work and will underpin the key pillars of our strategy.
Today, the Minister of Finance, having been mandated to lead our work on this element of our growth and development strategy for the implementation of the RDP, will present the government’s macro-economic policy.
This policy is the central compass which will guide all other sectoral growth and development programmes of the government aimed at achieving the objectives of the RDP.
As government, we are confident that the policy is right and that both this parliament and our social partners will join us in its implementation.
We must also make the point that, while conscious of the impatience of many, including our own, for the government to pronounce itself on many economic questions, we have sought to make certain that what we would say would be scientifically substantiated, based on concrete reality and therefore realisable.
We have therefore and within the confines of reason and our national capabilities, chosen to make haste slowly rather than hasten to earn ephemeral accolades.
It is also important to point out to this House that since the February meeting to which we have referred, government has further developed the other aspects of our growth and development strategy on the same basis of objectivity in the detail and boldness in the determination.
We have worked and are working on the national infrastructure investment framework together with our partners in the private sector.
For the first time in our history, both the public and the private sectors have, within a structured and implementable framework, agreed to work together to plan, finance and undertake municipal and other infrastructure development in new ways.
The report covering this area will be published soon.
One of the most concrete manifestations of this private-public partnership, which also impacts positively on Southern African cooperation, is the Maputo Development Corridor.
Similarly, we are convinced that we will make decisive progress in investment in the critical area of the telecommunications infrastructure.
As part of the strategy of growth and development for the implementation of the RDP, government has also approved and announced the National Crime Prevention Strategy aimed at the critically important objectives of combating and the preventing crime, a matter which this House discussed extensively only yesterday, during the Justice budget vote.
The Comprehensive Labour Market Commission appointed by the President to investigate the crucial matter of labour market policy also submitted its Report to the President yesterday.
The findings of this Commission and the policy decisions that will derive from its Report will be another important element in our growth and development strategy.
The Report contains important policy recommendations, including matters such as the coordination of macro-economic and industrial policies with labour market policy as well as labour market reform.
It places emphasis on economic growth and development with job creation – all of which are matters of central importance to the achievement of the objectives of the RDP.
The major policy guidelines for the restructuring of the public service have already been announced and detailed work in this regard is taking place under the leadership of the Minister for the Public Service and Administration.
The process of the restructuring of state assets is going ahead. In this regard, I must make this clear that government will not be stamp.