Water, roads, skills and electricity – Ramaphosa lists the massive infrastructure problems in South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted some of the major infrastructure issues facing the country right now and the damage they have caused South Africa.

Speaking in an ‘extraordinary’ meeting with chief executive officers of commercial banks and leaders of multilateral development finance institutions at Tuynhuys in Cape Town on Tuesday (18 February), Ramaphosa said that the country was facing serious infrastructure issues.

“Our country is confronted with major challenges that threaten to derail the hard-earned gains of our democracy.  Despite our efforts, deepening unemployment, slow economic growth and various social ills undermine our national aspirations,” he said.

“Extraordinary measures are required to respond to these challenges and return us to a path of growth. It is against this backdrop that I have convened this extraordinary meeting.”

Ramaphosa said that overall infrastructure investment needs to grow to 30% by 2030 to achieve the NDP growth targets.

He added that in recent years, the government has witnessed the accelerated deterioration of some of its most important assets required to improve the quality of life of the people.

Some of these assets (as quoted by Ramaphosa) include:

  • The rapid deterioration of municipal water infrastructure such as wastewater treatment works and water treatment plants undermines the economy and threatens access to basic services;
  • The disintegration of provincial and municipal roads will affect the efficiency of the road network, stunt economic growth and increase the cost of transport for all road-users;
  • The story of failing power plants is well documented, causing great harm to the economy and raising the country’s risk profile;
  • The haemorrhaging of technical engineering and financial skills in the public sector has contributed significantly to the bleak state of public infrastructure;
  • Decimation of these necessary skills in the public sector has undermined planning, prudent asset management, and the production of a credible and transparent project pipeline;
  • The net effect has been the collapse of industry, divestment from the country and erosion of funder confidence.

How to fix it

Ramaphosa said that the above issues are a ‘picture that governments wants to correct immediately’.

To address these issues, Ramaphosa said that government would be rolling out a number of measures to improve infrastructure development in the country.

These measures include:

  • The creation of technical and financial engineering capacity;
  • A detailed infrastructure investment plan;
  • Initiate policy and regulatory reforms;
  • Rethinking the public sector financing space;
  • Revising the public sector infrastructure institutional framework.

Ramaphosa said he would also release an ‘Infrastructure Investment Policy Statement’, which, among other things, will provide an ‘eco-system’ within which good infrastructure investments are undertaken, remove ‘institutional confusion’, and create an oversight mechanism.

“This policy will help build consensus, and provide clarity to all stakeholders on how infrastructure projects should be conceived, how government support mechanisms should be structured, and how the infrastructure project life cycle should be streamlined,” he said.

“The scale and gravity of the challenge facing the country calls for a collective South African response.

“The state will have to galvanise all of society behind an orchestrated, comprehensive and bold effort to turn around the economic fortunes of the country.”

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Water, roads, skills and electricity – Ramaphosa lists the massive infrastructure problems in South Africa