Speech by Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Cabinet colleagues and Leader of the Opposition
Honourable members of the Western Cape Parliament
Director-General, Heads of Department and Officials
I rise with pleasure to participate in this debate on the Premier’s State of the Province Address of last week – an address delivered in a context of a South Africa still reeling from the economic turmoil caused by a President who clearly has at best a tenuous grasp of [or at worst a total disregard for] the impact of irresponsible political announcements on international and market confidence in this country. As if this were not enough, the world has also had to endure the spectacle of a once respected parliament upon which all South Africans optimistically pinned their hopes of a better future reduced at times to the level of a badly disciplined and mis-managed primary school classroom.
The burden of restoring some of this shattered confidence now falls on the shoulders of Minister Gordhan, who mercifully for South Africa ended up occupying the finance office once President Zuma had finished his game of musical chairs – estimated at R500 billion in lost value the most expensive parlour game in South African history.
Speaker, I presume many members of this house read the highly respected weekly publication, The Economist, which has appeared continuously since 1843. In this week’s edition, there is short article on reforming FIFA which begins as follows:
Every so often, organisations become bywords for something else. Apple means elegance, Berkshire Hathaway loyalty and Blackberry decline. Alas, FIFA, the governing body of world football, spells corruption. Sprucing up this most tarnished of brands will take more than a bit of tinkering with the way FIFA is run.
On February 26th FIFA’s member associations will hold a secret ballot – what else? – in Zurich to choose a new president who will replace Sepp Blatter. The omens are not good. Mr Blatter bequeathed his successor an organization in crisis. His fifth term was cut short after the indictment last year of several of the game’s biggest wigs for alleged money laundering.
Fellow members of this house, as serious as the association of corruption is with the name and affairs of FIFA and as enormous are the amounts of money involved, FIFA remains the controlling body of what is at the end of the day a sport – something meant for recreation and a platform on which to display feats of athletic ability, skills and teamwork. The beautiful game is still a game – it is not life itself. FIFA is certainly not a government charged with caring for its citizens, upholding and respecting a long fought for constitution, ensuring a functioning social environment and understanding and nurturing an economy which can deliver jobs to people so that they can feed their families with pride – and not be dependent on grants and handouts which ensure their continued reliance on favours open to political manipulation.
And so, Speaker, if Apple means elegance, Berkshire Hathaway means loyalty, Blackberry means decline and FIFA spells corruption, what has the ANC government in 2016 become a byword for? Is it the once admired struggle for freedom from the shackles of apartheid or is it the relentless plundering of state resources through cadre redeployment, the abuse of the many opportunities cynically created through state owned enterprises and dubious tender allocations and the grotesque enrichment of a few obedient loyalists at the expense of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions?
As we sit here today, I think we all know the answer to this rhetorical question.
And so, Speaker, for reasons entirely different from those of many ordinary people in South Africa, the ANC must be hoping that Minister Gordhan is able to pull a field of rabbits out of the hat tomorrow. Without this, the slippery slope looms large.
It is against this background that the Honourable Premier delivered her address last week, stressing the need for continued service excellence during a time of austerity and a time of central fiscus cutbacks in the face of poor management of the economy and the impact of the drought. Over and above this on-going need for quality service delivery the Premier highlighted a number of initiatives – Game Changers – aimed at making a demonstrable difference to the lives of many residents in the Western Cape and at ensuring that this province retains its reputation for working Better Together with the people who choose to live here.
Speaker, the combination of capital flight from South Africa and the cut-backs poses particular challenges to my department as the lead agent in delivering the infrastructure requirements upon which so many of the services highlighted by the Premier depend. In one way or another the Department of Transport and Public Works is also involved in most of the Game Changers. Apart from providing the enabling infrastructure itself, the department has a crucial role to play in that its maintenance and construction projects are key sources of job creation and economic empowerment. Every possible opportunity has to be grasped to maximise the economic benefit of this capital expenditure against a background in which across the country since 1994 – within both the public and private sectors – the ratio of fixed capital investment to GDP has decreased significantly.
Under these circumstances it is crucial that government aligns and sequences its efforts so that the correct messages are sent to the private sector to establish partnerships with government to ensure that the deteriorating fixed capital to GDP investment ratio I have referred to is restored over time. The role which large public works programmes played in the New Deal solution to an earlier recession in the USA must not be forgotten. In doing this we have to focus infrastructure spending in such a way as to maximise returns – and these returns include enabling our sister departments to deliver on their services – and to minimise the negative economic externalities which have brought us to where we are today.
A prime example is the road network in this province, often the subject of positive comments by our increasing number of visitors to the Western Cape. Of the 32 000 km of roads making up the Western Cape road network, 20% is surfaced [tarred] but this 20% carries 95% of all road traffic. In addition, the overwhelming majority of our road network has a fair to very good Visual Condition Index. Although much of our surfaced road network is over 25 years old our planned and focused maintenance spend has protected our massive investment in ensuring that the economy of this province is able to keep moving. The current asset value of the road network is just over R72 billion. The estimated replacement value is in excess of R90 billion.
It would be simple irresponsible not to maintain an asset base of this magnitude and importance to our economy. As irresponsible, Speaker, as willy-nilly destroying investor confidence by playing musical chairs with key posts in the national cabinet to satisfy some as yet unconfirmed political agenda.
By contrast the route map set out by the Premier of this province last week is clear, responsible and achievable. The commitment of my department is to play its part in its successful implementation in the interests of the residents of this province and the well-being of the country at large.