A local commentator, discussing the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President on February 11, bemoaned the ‘lack of substance’ in the speech.
It got me thinking that this phrase aptly describes the workings of the current government at all levels: the stuff on the periphery of real delivery is executed with the utmost diligence and enthusiasm.
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Consider for example the launch of any major project, be it at local, provincial, or national level.
The amount of detailed planning and attention to detail is staggering – seating arrangements, catering for the ordinary guests, the VIP guests and the VVIP guests, design and printing of menus and programmes, flowers arrangements and table settings takes up weeks and weeks of senior officials time.
Multiply all this tenfold if the President or some other senior minister will be in attendance.
Of course, years later, when the project has failed, stagnated or been ‘captured’ , all anyone remembers is the fantastic launch event.
The same diligence and professionalism seems to desert these self same officials and managers who put together the impressive event.
The same goes for conferences and indabas.
No expense seems to be spared in providing the ‘goodies bags’ with monogrammed gifts from the hosting department.
In most cases, the content and presentations are world class, but who is monitoring whether the learning that should have happened is transferred to the relevant departments to enhance service delivery?
So last Thursday night, the President followed the same script, boldly stating that the government planned ‘massive reforms to make it easier for business to do business’.
The substance is lost when at a local level, developers wait for years for planning permission to create new infrastructure, provincial mandarins scupper and impede local development by sitting on rezoning or other such approvals.
He blithely spoke (again) of putting more capacity onto the electricity grid by procuring another 2000mW from independent power producers, a promise carried over from last year’s SONA, and not executed by the sheer incompetence or unwillingness of the Department of Minerals and Energy.
Substance is the stuff that builds confidence, and shows investors that promises can be kept, (even though they may be a bit late).
Substance is shown by holding people to account for non-performance and mismanagement, being honest and transparent, and most of all concentrating on the things that matter, not the easy to do’s.
* Vijay Naidoo writes in his capacity as CEO of the Port Shepstone Business Forum. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.
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