WITH last week’s delivery of the 2015 Budget, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has provided the mechanism by which the country’s socio-economic development path over the coming year will be implemented. There is no doubt that the amount of work that has been undertaken to develop the strategic frameworks necessary for large-scale economic growth is now becoming a reality as the National Development Plan (NDP) and the National Infrastructure Plan are in their implementation phases.
For South Africa to thrive economically, and to position it as a country on the move on an increasingly more complex and highly competitive world stage, world-class mobility must be at the heart of any strategic plan and budget direction. When the world’s leading decision-makers gather for the International Transport Forum Summit in May this year in Germany, at the top of the agenda will be the issue of how progressive countries can achieve greater mobility for a more connected world.
There is no doubt that one of the greatest concerns today for emerging markets and developing countries around the world is how effective transport systems are interconnected to shifting global trade flows, supply chain management, tourism expansion and sustainability – especially as greater numbers of people in the developing world are moving to cities.
Ensuring mobility for a connected world is at the heart of any successful growth and development strategy, whether it is providing transport infrastructure to get people to work, or getting goods to global and domestic markets.
For South Africa to move forward, particularly during times when global market pressures are negatively affecting our domestic economic environment, it is imperative that mobility is a driving force for socio-economic change. In this regard, Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) has set itself a vision to be the number one public transport operator. To achieve this goal, R53 billion will be invested in acquiring a new fleet for metro services over 10 years and about R30bn capital expenditure programme over the next three years to modernise the rail business.
This means that the best locomotives, infrastructure, and the best technologies global standards have to offer must be implemented, and be incorporated into our daily living. As with the ambitions of the National Infrastructure Plan, to achieve such mobility requires budget support to make them a reality, and by so doing, positively change the lives of the country’s citizens.
Moving forward, we hope to see a positive response and recognition of the enormity of the task ahead in terms of completing essential infrastructure development initiatives that will create the much-needed mobility and connectivity in the country for growth.
Originally, when the New Growth Path was developed for the country, it set a goal of five million new jobs by 2020; it identified structural problems in the economy and pointed to opportunities in specific sectors and markets or “jobs drivers”. The first jobs driver identified was infrastructure, recognising that with large scale infrastructure development came the laying of a solid foundation for higher growth, inclusivity and job creation.
For our part at Prasa Technical, we embraced the ethos behind the 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (Sips) which aimed to fast-track catalytic projects that had the potential to fast-track development and growth – rail and transportation was at the very heart of so many of those Sips.
They provided the necessary infrastructure to develop new industrial corridors across the country; to upgrade the country’s ability to move goods efficiently from hub to hub; to radically improve the logistics capability around the country to stimulate greater trade and development; and importantly, to unlock the economic opportunities in key parts of the country and to stimulate the creation of new jobs.
Nene’s Budget is critical if South Africa is to become a “mobility for socio-economic growth” focused country, and join those other progressive countries around the world that are looking to effect real change through mobility.
Our mandate requires us to focus our energies and finite resources on the strategic core areas such as strategic rail infrastructure – rail track, electrical equipment, and stations: depot upgrade, re-signalling of the network, development of walk-way bridges and pair-way, upgrading of information technology, and the investment in critically needed new rolling stock as well as refurbishment of the current rolling stock.
The organisation’s strategic infrastructure department oversees the total life cycle management of Prasa’s asset base. It is also responsible for developing and driving essential new investment projects in Prasa’s infrastructure to meet long-term requirements of the country and its mobility aspirations. The challenge going forward is to ensure that South Africa’s competitive position is enhanced through an efficient transport system for an inclusive socio-economic development approach.
If that is achieved, together with essential innovation in the provision of fully integrated public transport solutions, and the critical human capital, then the goals set out in the NDP, the National Infrastructure Plan, and the New Growth Path 2020, can ultimately be achieved.
Saki Zamkaxa is chief executive of Prasa Technical.
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