SPEECHES

Keynote address by the Minister for Public Service and Administration, hon. Radhakrishna L. Padayachie (Roy), MP on the occassion of the academic opening session of masters and doctoral students University of the North-West, Potchefstroom, 23 January 2012

Date: 22 Jan 2012

Programme Director

Vice Chancellor and Executive Management of the University

Director for the School of Social and Government Studies

Staff and students of the university

Invited Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the university and in particular the School of Social and Government Studies for inviting me to address this auspicious gathering, under what I consider to be one of the most important themes especially for our country and the rest of the African continent — Governance within the context of a developmental state.

The theme is most important against the backdrop of both the globalisation process which has for some time constrained our ability as a country to fast—track our transformation and to respond to the myriad needs of the majority of our people, in particular those relating to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the one hand, and the recent global economic and financial crisis, on the other; a crisis which has not only exposed limitations of neo—liberal economic thought, but has threatened global economic stability with our major trading partners such as the European Union and United States, faced with shrinking economies, inflationary pressures and reduced credit ratings, among others.

All these factors have a direct bearing on our ability to successfully construct a developmental state; one that is not only democratic, but that is also able to root out poverty, deliver quality services, fight corruption, improve access to quality education, ensure economic growth, and create more jobs in the economy.

The developmental state that we posit in South Africa is located within the overall context of our transformation agenda. Let me on that note share with you some brief background to South Africa''s transformation agenda.

At the turn of the last decade of the last century, when the domestic balance of forces shifted to allow the liberation movement, led by the African National Congress (ANC), the space to ascend to power, certain critical debates took place on how best to land the movement on a path that would ensure a speedier liberation process for the country.

The challenge for the ANC, when it ascended to power in 1994, was how to formulate workable solutions in response to the unfriendly global milieu and demanding domestic terrain that required decisive action to address the justifiably unmitigated expectations of the people of South Africa. Thus the decision to embark on a major transformation agenda was in large part informed by the imperative of truly liberating the majority of the people of South Africa.

The ANC reasoned that understanding the objective balance of forces within which the new Government operated was important. It argued that while the primary task of the democratic state was "the emancipation of the black majority, the working people, the urban poor, the rural poor, the women, the youth and the disabled", it was also the task of this state to engage other parties that were not necessarily part of the majority of these groups. The ANC said "... the democratic state must also seek to forge a democratic and equitable partnership as well as a working relationship between labour and capital in the interests of social stability, economic progress, reconstruction and development".

The change from apartheid to democratic government therefore was a fundamental process that required thoroughgoing transformation in the economic, political and social spheres. Government had to redress past inequalities and remove discriminatory policies created by the apartheid regime in order to realize a just, inclusive and prosperous society.

Part of this effort included democratic consolidation, the establishment of representative and efficient political institutions, the economic reform of a country that had hitherto been weakened by sanctions and international isolation, and reconciliation between different racial groups. The process also entailed establishing transformative structures at different levels; and formulating new policies and regulations that would enhance equity, democracy and participation, and ensure redress in different areas.

The realisation of all these required a fast—growing economy and an expanded fiscus in order to finance these bold and ambitious programmes which the ANC did not anticipate before coming to power in 1994.

By 1994, more than 85% of the senior management in Government was white. Only 3% of the senior management was female. The impact of the discriminatory and exclusionary development was deeper than initially anticipated; with vast areas of the historically disadvantaged without basic services, such as water and electricity. The capacity of the state was at its lowest ebb compared to the task it was envisaged to undertake in the post—apartheid era. Worst of all, the Government purse was literally empty.

The starting point for the transformation project therefore was the stabilisation of the state in a number of areas before embarking on ambitious transformation projects. These included the transformation of the public service into a more coherent, representative, transparent, efficient, effective and accountable entity, that is able to execute government policies, and is responsive to the needs of all citizens (in areas such as education, health, housing and land claims); reducing the government deficit, reprioritising government expenditure from consumption to productive applications, and integrate the South African economy into a competitive global economy.

This transformation was given practical expression in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). Underlying the RDP was the justifiable hope that foreign direct investment (FDI) would flow into the country and that the international community would complement South Africa''s efforts to create conditions for a better life for all. Within a few years of liberation, however, it became clear that this would not be the case. The lifting of sanctions and our peaceful transition to democracy did little to attract foreign, and stimulate, domestic investments. Domestic private sector investment was negative for several years, as capital effectively went on strike, moving mobile resources offshore as rapidly as it possibly could.

With regard to the strengthening of the state, the introduction of the Public Service Act (1994) laid the foundation for integrating the fragmented system of state administrations inherited from the apartheid era into a unified national public service. It was believed that "the transformed state could, in conjunction with a mobilised civil society, then help achieve the strategic objective of the national democratic revolution [NDR]: creating a united, non—racial, non—sexist and democratic society".

To transform the public service into a viable agency capable of achieving the apex priorities of the Government of National Unity, the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service (WPTPS) was introduced in 1995 and it sought to establish a framework to guide the transformation of the South African public service including the introduction and implementation of new policies and legislation.

The Constitution, adopted in 1996, further entrenched the goals of the White Paper. The Constitutional values and principles for Public Administration, along with the Bill of Rights, committed Government to a broad participative, redistributive and developmental role.

Programme Director,

The question that we should be asking now is: where are we with regard to the transformation of the state?

Well, while much has been achieved since the advent of democracy, a myriad of challenges still remain.

Both the Fifteen Year Review Synthetic Report (2008) and the Diagnostic Overview of the National Planning Commission (2011) to which the National Development Plan (2011) seeks to respond, are frank about the successes and shortcomings of our attempts since 1994.

For instance, the efforts to deliver quality services to the people, such as clean water and sanitation, houses, basic infrastructure, and ensuring access to quality education, are on—going. But the needs are too many for us to overcome in a period of just 17 years of freedom.

At times the financial dry spell has stared at the face of the economically and socially disadvantaged black South African population who demand and hope for an extension of the welfare system to improve their situation. Perhaps, this is one of the areas that the academic community can help us understand and respond to better.

Another area, Programme Director, where there has been considerable progress is the area of the promotion of representativeness. The public service has made significant inroads since the dawn of democracy. Not only has the legislative framework in support of priorities such as Affirmative Action and Employment Equity, amongst others, been developed, but we have taken decisive steps towards ensuring that our public service mirrors the demographics of the country and that it is well—positioned to execute the task of a developmental state. Of course, much more focus needs to be given to the national targets for representation of women and persons with disabilities across all salary levels but particularly in senior management service.

On the skills front, we are still faced with challenges. While South Africa, through interventions such as the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) agreed to by Government, business and labour to enhance the process of attracting critical skills as well as their development within the South African labour force, the public service continues to be confronted by the problem of a skills shortage in critical areas of our labour force.

With regard to poverty reduction, we have also fared well, especially when considering the mammoth challenge we faced when the ANC Government came into power in 1994. We have established that income poverty has actually declined. When using the R322—00 per person per month poverty line, in 1995 about 53% of households were living below that line. In 2005 that figure decreased to 48%. When using the lower poverty line measure of R174—00 per person per month, the number of households in 1995 stood at 3%, decreasing in 2005 to 2%.

What is apparent, at least from the Government''s point of view, is that our successes occurred more often in areas where Government had significant control, than in areas where we only had indirect influence (although of cause this distinction is not always consistent).

The National Development Plan therefore places us on a forward—looking trajectory and requires all of us, not just Government, to commit to concrete programmes that will improve the lives of the South African people.

To this extent, the National Development Plan becomes a framework within which the current efforts to construct a South African developmental state are being anchored.

Programme Director

At this juncture, I wish to reflect briefly on this concept of a developmental state.

The concept is neither new nor unique to South Africa. In fact, many examples of developmental states have been cited in various pieces of literature, with the so—called Asian Tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, being the most notable. Hong Kong and Singapore became world—leading international financial centres, whereas South Korea and Taiwan became world leaders in manufacturing information technology in the period between the 1960s and 1990s. The Tigers experienced decades of supercharged growth based largely on industrial policies supporting exports to developed countries of the northern hemisphere.

Contrasting this fast development of the East with that of Africa, Moeletsi Mbeki in a paper titled ''Underdevelopment in Sub—Saharan Africa: The Role of the Private Sector and Political Elites'', draws comparisons between Ghana and South Korea. He remarks as follows:

"In a recent publication entitled Can Africa Claim the 21st Century? the World Bank noted that many observers, the 1974 winner of the Nobel prize for economics Gunnar Myrdal among them, expected Asia to remain mired in poverty while Africa steamed ahead. A comparison between Ghana and South Korea, two counties that were at a similar level of development in the 1960s, shows that the opposite happened. The World Bank found that ''in 1965 ... incomes and exports per capita were higher in Ghana than in Korea... Korea''s exports per capita overtook Ghana''s in 1972, and its income level surpassed Ghana''s four years later. Between 1965 and 1995 Korea''s exports increased by 400 times in current dollars. Meanwhile, Ghana''s increased only four times, and real earnings per capita fell to a fraction of their earlier value''".

Robert J. Barro, a professor of economics at Harvard University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, in his piece titled ''The East Asian Tigers have plenty to roar about'', concludes that "overall, we continue to have ample grounds to view the East Asian growth and technological performances as miraculous".

While the success of the Asian Tigers has been dubbed a "miracle", some scholars point to the particular political epoch that prevailed at the time, which explained in large part their "miraculous" success. Victor Krasilshchikov in an article titled ''The East Asian ''Tigers'': Following Russia and Latin America?'' published by Argentina''s Centre for International Studies comments that "the successful catching up development of the East Asian NICs [new industrialising countries] had been the outcome of the unique external, economic and political conditions that matured in the region and the world capitalist economy at the dawn of these countries'' fascinating industrial take—off."

He argues that their export—oriented growth was conditioned by a set of the external factors. Firstly, there was a rise of the new international division of labour, that is, the removal of mass assembly line production to the East while the markets for their outputs remained linked to the West. Secondly, there was the intention on the part of the United States to restrain both the Maoist expansion and the Soviet influence in the region by means of successful capitalist modernisation of the American satellites in Asia. The United States did everything in its power to sustain the local ruling elites.

While one cannot rule out the importance of internal (domestic) factors in these countries, the prevailing balance of forces at the time as a result of the Cold War did have a major role to play in the success of these countries.

Elsewhere the context was different. In Africa, for instance, the search for developmental states was associated with the quest for democratisation and good governance, owing in large part to the continent''s historical context.

In the case of the Asian Tigers, the basic tenets of democracy were lacking, corruption was rife, labour rights were often violated, and there was little evidence of public participation in decision—making processes — all these generally regarded as important elements of good governance. Autonomy was conceived in terms of the state imposing its will over society and suppressing civil society. As Chalmers Johnson points out in an article titled, ''MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy— 1925—1975'', the "soft authoritarian character" of the state was the source of its autonomy.

Please allow me at this point, ladies and gentlemen, to share some reflections on the context of Africa''s developmental state.

According to some analysts, demands for good governance in Africa led to the search for what they term "capable developmental states that are able, inter alia, to implement the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs], fight poverty, establish a sound macroeconomic framework, conduct democratic elections, fight corruption and establish people—centred decentralized service delivery mechanisms underpinned by sound systems of public administration."

Although definitions of governance have remained largely nebulous, many discussions on the concept have focused on the relationship between ''the governors'' and ''the governed''. Of course, some scholars have argued that governance relates to the whole spectrum of civil and political institutions, relationships and processes — something which "brings to the fore the central role governance plays in democracies".

The definition of governance, which is by far a comprehensive one, is taken from a 1997 UNDP Report. According to the UNDP, governance refers to:

"The existence of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country''s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences".

It is no exaggeration therefore to say that this quote demonstrates the nature and extent to which development challenges and opportunities of the 21st century are complex. States are required to approach these complexities with some measure of determination, conviction and intensity in order to respond to the protracted needs of the people. This means "the key tenets of good governance, including developing a professional public service grounded on meritocracy as well as popular participation cannot technically be viewed as technical requirements. Indeed they can only be viewed by states that are able to assert their legitimacy".

In the context of what I have just presented, I believe that there has generally been a new thinking around the concept of a developmental state. While in East Asia, it was conceived more in terms of growing the economy and ensuring the survival of the ruling elite (i.e. a political consideration), in Africa there is equal focus on issues of governance. In his input titled ''AU, NEPAD and the APRM — Towards Democratic Change?'' Henning Melber states that "the emerging new paradigm has also manifested itself in the further development of [NEPAD], with hitherto unprecedented emphasis in African strategies and programmes on democracy, human rights and good governance as substantive prerequisites for socioeconomic development".

Concurring with him is Charles Manga Fombad in an article titled ''The African Union, Democracy and Good Governance''. His view is that "perhaps the most significant... development that came with the creation of the African Union is the special mandate it has been given to promote democracy and good governance".

Indeed, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, with its broad framework; NEPAD''s ambitious targets for the continent''s development; and the APRM are an important step in the direction of entrenching good governance and creating democratic developmental states.

Programme Director

Let me at this stage make a few observations about good governance, of course within the context of a democratic developmental state, quoting extensively from some of the research that has been done in this area.

According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), good governance has 8 major attributes, and these are:

  • Participation
  • Rule of law
  • Transparency
  • Responsiveness
  • Consensus oriented
  • Equity and inclusiveness
  • Effectiveness and efficiency, and
  • Accountability

The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) also lists similar characteristics, which it argues are key to the construction of a democratic society.

Both the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, and the African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Administration emphasise, albeit to different degrees, citizen—centred development, popular participation and the indigenous ownership of the entire development agenda.

In this context, Collins Ogutu Miruka in an article titled ''Civic—Regarding Public Provisioning'' published in CAFRAD''s bi—annual journal of African Administrative Studies, talks of governance as a civic virtue. He advocates for what he terms ''quasi—legislative and quasi—judicial governance processes in reform and development. These include deliberative democracy, public conversations, participatory budgeting, citizens'' juries, study circulars, collaborative policymaking, and alternative dispute resolution''. These, according to him, allow the people and stakeholders to actively participate in the work of government.

Accounting for what Omano Edigheji of the Centre for Policy Studies calls "monumental democratic and developmental failures" on the Continent , the African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation''s diagnosis is that:

"The political context of socioeconomic development has been characterised, in many instances by an over—centralisation of power and impediments to the effective participation of the overwhelming majority of the people in social, political and economic development. As a result, the motivation of the majority of African people and their organisations to contribute their best to the development process… has been severely constrained and curtailed and their collective and individual creativity has been undervalued and underutilised."

The UNESCAP also makes an important observation when it states that, "... it should be clear that good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality... However, to ensure sustainable human development, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality."

In the context of everything I have said, I am convinced that what distinguishes a developmental state from other states is the extent to which it strives to achieve good governance in its totality.

I remain confident that our efforts to construct a democratic developmental state remain intact. My view, which I am sure is shared by many, is that achieving a developmental state will not only be possible through a statement of intent; nor will it be achieved by a mere declaration that our country is a democratic developmental state. Achieving a developmental state must be demonstrated through commitment to economic growth, eradication of poverty and reduction of inequality, creating jobs, and eradicating crime and corruption.

In the ultimate analysis, the answer to the question of whether we as South Africa are succeeding in constructing a democratic developmental state is dependent in part on how our policy choices and efforts respond to the many interdependent multiple dynamics, processes and situations that underlie sustainable human development agenda. The answer to this question is also dependent on how the current global economic climate shifts.

Having shared a broad conceptual framework of a developmental state, which also finds express resonance with the National Development Plan, I am convinced that we have a starting point to interrogate the challenges that confront us as a country in constructing and sustaining a developmental state.

Further research is needed to inform policy choices, policy formulation and decision—making. On this score, greater effort should be placed on enhancing partnerships towards the development and harnessing of the research capacity in institutions such as this University, so as to conduct and produce research in support of our efforts to deliver a state that will not only be democratic but that will also be truly developmental in character.

Efforts at enhancing such research capacity go beyond the issues of research grants; they go to the heart of the strategic and developmental nature of the research agenda and the quality of research outputs. This therefore requires that there also be greater effort to confront the nexus between theory and practice in order to address the important needs of South African citizens.

Currently, Government is seized with finding the best solutions to service delivery challenges. As Government we should depend on universities to develop new strategies and plans to keep up with the needs of the people, but also to refine existing plans such that they respond more appropriately to these needs.

The National Development Plan emphasises this point and states that "higher education is the major driver of the information/knowledge system, linking it with economic development". It goes on to say universities are pivotal to developing a nation. They produce new knowledge, critique information and find new local and global applications of the existing knowledge. They also set norms and standards, ethics and philosophy underpinning a nation''s knowledge capital.

Apart from research, universities also have an important role of educating and training people with high—level skills for employment needs of both the public and the private sector. Universities cannot simply be institutions that produce large numbers of students whose skills are incongruent with the prerequisites of the jobs available in the market.

For us to turn around the public service, we need a new calibre of public servants. It is common cause that public services are delivered through our collective human capital, much of which is being cultivated, nurtured and nourished in our institutions of higher learning. The challenge of inculcating and in—graining the service ethos and professionalism among the current and future cadres of public servants lies at the heart of the turn—around of, and improvement in, the quality of public services.

Thus universities can help us by producing leaders who will come to the public service and breathe new life into it. These leaders, which universities must help produce, should have the following attributes, amongst others:

  1. Break New Ground — are innovative and do not shy away from coming up with new ideas for the public good;
  2. Inspire Success — are self—motivated and ready to motivate others;
  3. Raise the Standard — strive to provide excellent quality service and instil a culture of continuous improvement;
  4. Put People First — are committed, caring, results—oriented and strive at all times to meet and exceed people''s expectations;
  5. Display integrity — are reliable and conduct themselves ethically.

In conclusion, I invite you to join hand with Government, with a view to finding the best possible ways in which we could work together to address the challenges faced by our country. We have previously spoken about possibilities, but have yet to graduate beyond the rhetoric of expressing statements of intent. What we need are practical steps to forge a closer working relationship; one that yields dividends; one that bears fruit; one that delivers tangibly the benefits of a transformed society within a developmental state and in support of the endeavour of a better life that we have promised our citizens and which our citizens justifiably have come to expect.

I wish you a productive 2012.

Thank you very much for your attention.


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