Hon Deputy Speaker, His Excellency Deputy President Motlanthe, hon members, it is my pleasure today to introduce the First Reading debate of the Infrastructure Development Bill. The Bill is intended to strengthen the capacity of government to implement the roll-out of infrastructure. It is thus at the heart of our efforts to improve the lives of citizens. Infrastructure is critical and has been pivotal to economic development and growth strategies across the world. In South Africa, infrastructure development is one key means to reverse the spatial patterns of apartheid and to address the legacies of privilege and underdevelopment that are part of our painful history.
The importance of infrastructure development is recognised in government policy frameworks. The National Development Plan says that to achieve a sustainable and inclusive growth by 2030, South Africa needs to invest in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country's medium- and long-term objectives.
Government's New Growth Path identifies infrastructure as the trigger jobs driver that is vital to unlock the potential of agriculture and agro- processing, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, tourism, the green economy and African regional development, and above all, to improve the lives of citizens.
We have taken steps to implement the commitment to improved infrastructure planning and implementation during this administration, building on almost 20 years of reconstruction and development.
In 2011, Cabinet did the following: Approved the establishment of the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission, the PICC, chaired by the President, which looked carefully at the lessons learnt from previous build programmes, including the 2010 World Cup stadia, the airport upgrades, road construction and the building of the Gautrain, all as part of creating the capable state in the infrastructure space; developed a forward-looking national infrastructure plan that is now being implemented; and began to unblock obstacles that hampered infrastructure spending and used increased spending in the midst of continuing slow global growth to maintain high levels of public investment - an important response to secure and support employment.
We had a number of infrastructure successes in the past 20 years and in the almost five years of this administration. Let me share with this august House the story of electricity as an illustration of the progress we have made.
The hon members may be interested to know that the first municipal electricity in South Africa was provided in 1890. Between 1890 and the onset of democracy, 5,2 million households were connected to the grid. Since 1996, the census year, a further more than 7 million households were connected to the grid. In other words, in less than 20 years of the democracy, more people were able to access electricity than in the previous 104 years of colonialism and apartheid. [Applause.] That is an extraordinary achievement, one which we can all be proud of.
At the start of this administration, solar water heaters were a rare installation, seen only in the homes of a few, green-conscious, generally higher-income households. Today, in many townships and villages across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are able to access running hot water using the power of the sun through the solar water heating system as part of our infrastructure roll-out. [Applause.]
I can similarly point to the progress made both in building social capital - clinics, schools, university buildings - and in expanding economic infrastructure such as roads, rail, electricity generation and bulk water supply.
Spending levels are rising, as we improve the capacity of the state to implement. Public investment now accounts for 7,6% of the GDP, up from 6,8% in late 2010. Moreover, procurement contracts ensure that the purchase of major equipment from local producers, including buses, trains and inputs for electricity generation, improve the impact on economic growth and industrialisation.
Government is acting decisively to tackle corruption, collusion and cartels in the construction industry, using the competition authorities to uncover evidence of price-fixing, and have slapped fines of R1,4 billion on the companies concerned. The authorities are investigating criminal charges against the individuals.
Today our public infrastructure programme employs more than 180 000 people, many of them young people. Kusile Power Station will be the world's fourth largest coal-fired power station - it is being built here in South Africa - and it alone employs more than 7 000 youth on its construction site in Mpumalanga. This demonstrates our commitment to bringing young people into infrastructure jobs. [Applause.]
This Bill before Parliament is intended to build on these successes but recognises that there are still many weaknesses and challenges we must face with implementation. The Bill provides the legal tools to overcome these challenges so that we can do more to achieve our national goals. Let me now outline key provisions of the Bill. What does the Bill seek to do?
First, the Bill establishes, in law, the co-ordination structures of the PICC. It provides for the President to nominate members of Cabinet, and includes the premiers of provinces and representatives drawn from local government. This is done to ensure that all three spheres of government are part of the commission and that all the main executive authorities across the public sector are mandated to meet on a regular basis, to drive the implementation of infrastructure.
Second, the Bill provides for a planning framework for infrastructure, with a long-range plan that moves beyond the work of one single administration, in line with the call in the NDP. This ensures that we move beyond the stop- start pattern of infrastructure. It allows universities and FET colleges to tool up to produce the skills that will be needed for the next 20 to 30 years. Also, it gives investors the certainty that they need in order to commit to long-term investment in the domestic economy.
Third, the Bill provides for the designation of strategic integrated projects, SIPs, through the National Infrastructure Plan, NIP. To date, the PICC has identified 18 SIPs, which bring together hundreds of separate construction projects, which include improving schools across the country, opening the northern mining belt and developing the south-eastern coastal regions. These SIPs allow for better integration of connected projects and for improved monitoring of implementation. These SIPs will be chaired and co-ordinated by different Cabinet Ministers, providing high-level political leadership and encouraging alignment.
Fourth, the Bill sets timeframes for the approval of regulatory decisions affecting the implementation of infrastructure projects. Instead of the sequential approval processes - where you ask for something and it takes a long time, and you then start with your next application - the Bill provides for processes to run concurrently wherever possible. This ensures that the state works towards a common deadline. These timeframes provide for extensive public consultation periods. Fifth, it sets out processes of co-ordination that require regulators and relevant departments to work closely together through steering committees for each SIP that will co-ordinate efforts to speed up the implementation of infrastructure construction and completion. These in turn will be monitored on a quarterly basis through an integrated dashboard that has been developed in the PICC.
Sixth, because many infrastructure projects require land, it provides for the PICC to expropriate land required by the state, but makes such power subject to the Constitution and any Act of Parliament, specifically dealing with expropriation.
Seventh, it contains clear mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest between decision-makers and the underlying projects, as part of government's anticorruption drive. It provides for tough penalties for corruption, including imprisonment for up to five years.
Eighth, it sets out the mechanisms through which developmental targets can be set for each major infrastructure project, covering issues such as local industrialisation, job creation, youth employment, greening the economy, skills development, rural development and broad-based empowerment.
I have been encouraged by the widespread support for the Bill across party- political lines during the portfolio committee briefing earlier this week. Passing the Bill will ensure the following: that our successful infrastructure roll-outs are sustained and indeed strengthened in the coming years; that are created; that inclusive growth is promoted; that public and private investment levels are lifted; and that we strike a blow against poverty, inequality and unemployment. It is therefore my pleasure to introduce the discussion on the First Reading debate of the Infrastructure Development Bill. I thank you. [Applause.]