Finance minister Enoch Godongwana has outlined some of the progress that has been made by Operation Vulindlela – a flagship initiative to accelerate the implementation of key growth-enhancing reforms for South Africa.
Speaking during the release of the Operation Vulindlela (OV) report on Friday, minister Godongwana said that since its inception Operation Vulindlela has fast-tracked a number of critical interventions aimed at sustainably increasing the rate at which the economy can grow and create jobs.
A total of 26 structural reforms were selected across the energy, transport, telecommunications and water sectors. Reforms to the visa regime were also included, to support the tourism sector and ensure the availability of scarce critical skills.
Thus far, 9 reforms have been completed; while another 11 are progressing well, he said.
“A minority of these reforms, such as improving Eskom’s energy availability factor and completing digital migration, are not on track. As demonstrated with the formation of NECOM, however, we are taking decisive action to get these reforms on track as quickly as possible.”
OV was established in October 2020 as a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms.
It is a government‐wide approach through which ministers, departments and entities implement reforms. A Vulindlela Unit in the Presidency and National Treasury monitors progress, addresses challenges and actively supports implementation.
Five key objectives include:
- stable supply of electricity;
- reduce cost and improve quality of digital communications;
- provide sustainable water supply to meet demand;
- provision of competitive and efficient freight transport and
- establish a visa regime that attracts skills and grows tourism.
Cheaper and better digital telecommunication connectivity in the country is in sight after the government in April completed the auction of high-demand spectrum, said the minister.
Godongwana said analogue switch-off has already been completed in five provinces.
The minister said that while the final switch-off date for analogue transmission has been delayed by a decision of the Constitutional Court, work continues to migrate remaining households to digital signal to complete this process.
“Government intends to provide a subsidized set-top box to any indigent households that have not yet migrated and complete switch-off in remaining provinces.
“The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies will shortly communicate a new date for analogue switch-off following consultations with stakeholders in the sector.”
To facilitate faster deployment of telecommunications infrastructure, Godongwana said the Rapid Deployment Policy and Policy Direction has been finalized for approval by Cabinet.
“We anticipate that a standard draft by-law for wayleave approvals will be adopted for rollout in municipalities by October 2022.”
Some of the most significant progress has been achieved in the water sector, said Godongwana.
“The backlog of water use license applications, which stood at close to 1,000 outstanding applications in April this year, has been cleared as a result of a turnaround plan supported by Operation Vulindlela. This will unlock billions of Rands in new investment in agriculture, forestry and other sectors that was held up by outstanding license approvals.”
Draft legislation for the National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency has been finalised, and will be published for public consultation shortly, the minister said. “This will enable much greater investment in our bulk water resources.”
In addition, a Water Partnerships Office has been established between the Department of Water and Sanitation and the DBSA to enable private sector participation in water infrastructure and management.
The reinstatement of the Green Drop water quality monitoring system has enabled greater transparency regarding the quality of water and sanitation services at municipal level.
The finance minister said that the department is putting in place a range of measures to improve the quality of water services at municipal level.
This includes intervening in municipalities that fail to meet minimum norms and standards. “These reforms will have a fundamental impact on the way in which the water sector is managed, and will ensure future water security.”
“To support the tourism sector last year we rolled out the e-visa system and extended it to fourteen countries. During the next quarter, we will explore the feasibility of a visa recognition program which would allow the holders of certain visas of recognized third countries to enter South Africa without a new application process.”
In an effort to support the tourism sector, last year government rolled out the e-visa system and extended it to 14 countries.
The minister said during the next quarter, government will explore the feasibility of a visa recognition programme, which will allow the holders of certain visas of recognized countries to enter South Africa without a new application process.
Finally, to address the skills shortage in the short term, the minister said that the Critical Skills List has been updated for the first time since 2014.
“This list has since been amended to include additional skilled occupations in the medical field which are in short supply.
“This quarter we completed a comprehensive review of the work visa system aimed at identifying improvements that could enhance the effectiveness of our visa system and will work to implement the recommendations of the report by March 2023.”
Previous modeling has shown that attracting skills that the economy needs could have the second-highest impact on economic growth after resolving the energy shortfall.
“Significant progress has been made, and is being made, to implement these reforms and to address the urgent challenges that our economy faces,” said Godongwana.
The minister said that the report demonstrates that concrete actions are being taken “to unlock the dynamism of this economy and place our growth on a higher trajectory”.
Read: These jobs have been added to South Africa’s critical skills list