Finance Minister Enoch Gadongwana has outlined some of the successes achieved through Operation Vulindlela, the flagship initiative to accelerate the implementation of key reforms that are driving South Africa’s growth.
Speaking during the release of the Operation Vulindlela (OV) report on Friday, Minister Godongwana said that since its inception, Operation Vulindlela has accelerated a number of important activities aimed at sustainably increasing the rate of economic growth and job creation.
A total of 26 structural reforms were selected in the energy, transport, telecommunications and water sectors. Visa reforms were also included to support the tourism sector and ensure the availability of critical skills in short supply.
At the moment, 9 reforms have been completed; while another 11 are doing well, he said.
“A minority of these reforms, such as improving Eskom’s energy affordability ratio and completing the digital migration, are not on track. However, as the establishment of NECOM has shown, we are taking decisive action to implement these reforms as soon as possible.”
OV was established in October 2020 as a joint initiative of the Presidency and the National Treasury to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms.
It is a whole-of-government approach, with which ministers, departments and organizations implement reforms. The Vulindlela Unit at the Presidency and National Treasury monitors progress, resolves issues and actively supports implementation.
The five key tasks include:
- to stabilize the supply of electricity;
- reduce the cost and improve the quality of digital communication;
- ensure sustainable water supply to meet demand;
- ensuring competitive and efficient freight transportation and
- establish a visa regime that attracts skills and develops tourism.
According to the minister, cheaper and better digital telecom connectivity is expected in the country after the government completed the auction for the sale of high-demand spectrum in April.
Gadongwana said the analogue switch-off has already been completed in five provinces.
The minister said that although the final date for the switch-off of analogue transmission has been postponed by the decision of the Constitutional Court, work continues to switch the remaining households to a digital signal to complete the process.
“The government intends to provide a subsidized set-top box to all low-income families who have not yet moved, and a total blackout in the remaining provinces.
“The Department for Communications and Digital Technologies will shortly announce a new analogue switch-off date following consultation with stakeholders in the sector.”
To facilitate faster deployment of telecommunications infrastructure, Godongwana said the Rapid Deployment Policy and Policy Direction have been finalized for Cabinet approval.
“We expect the standard draft vacation permit bylaws to be adopted for distribution to municipalities by October 2022.”
Some of the most significant advances have been made in the water sector, Godongwana said.
“The backlog of water license applications, which stood at around 1,000 pending applications in April this year, has been cleared as a result of the reform plan supported by Operation Vulindlela. This will unlock billions of rand in new investment in agriculture, forestry and other sectors that have been held back by outstanding licences.”
The draft law on the National Agency for Water Resources Infrastructure has been completed and will soon be published for public discussion, the minister said. “This will allow for much more investment in our essential water resources.”
In addition, a water partnership office was established between the Department of Water and Sanitation and DBSA to ensure private sector participation in water infrastructure and management.
The restoration of the Green Drop water quality monitoring system has allowed for greater transparency regarding the quality of water supply and sanitation at the municipal level.
The Minister of Finance said that the department is implementing a set of measures to improve the quality of water supply at the municipal level.
This includes intervention in municipalities that do not meet minimum norms and standards. “These reforms will have a fundamental impact on the way the water sector is managed and ensure water security in the future.”
“To support the tourism sector, last year we developed an electronic visa system and extended it to fourteen countries. Next quarter we will explore the possibility of a visa recognition program that will allow holders of certain visas from recognized third countries to enter South Africa without a new application process.”
To support the tourism sector, the government introduced an e-visa system last year and extended it to 14 countries.
The minister said next quarter the government would explore the possibility of a visa recognition program that would allow holders of certain visas from recognized countries to enter South Africa without a new application process.
Finally, to address skills shortages in the short term, the minister said the Essential Skills List had been updated for the first time since 2014.
“This list has since been amended to include additional skilled medical occupations that are in short supply.
“This quarter we completed a comprehensive review of the work visa system to identify improvements that could improve the efficiency of our visa system and will work to implement the report’s recommendations by March 2023.”
Previous modeling has shown that attracting the skills needed by the economy could have the second-largest impact on economic growth after eliminating energy shortages.
“Significant progress has been and is being made in implementing these reforms and addressing the immediate challenges facing our economy,” Godongwana said.
The minister said the report demonstrates concrete action is being taken “to unlock the dynamism of this economy and put our growth on a higher trajectory”.
Read: These jobs have been added to South Africa’s essential skills list