by Sibusiso Ndebele
Minister of Transport and chairman of the infrastructure development cluster
Early this week during the infrastructure development cluster media briefing, we announced the government’s plans to improve and expedite infrastructure to boost social and economic development.
As signs of economic recovery are showing, we need to make the best out of our infrastructure development programmes to enhance economic efficiency. During the briefing, we announced an increased infrastructure investment from R784 billion to R846bn over the medium-term expenditure period, making it one of the largest expenditure programmes in the country’s history.
The accelerated infrastructure programme will enable us to deliver, among other things, the World Cup and set our country on the growth path.
In the past few weeks and months we have experienced a spate of service delivery protests at Orange Farm, Mpumalanga and other parts of the country.
Rates protests this week in Meyerton showed that we need to plan with communities and municipalities to prevent such protests.
As we announce investments in water, transport, public works, energy and telecommunication projects and programmes, South Africans must be aware that our planned infrastructure investments will answer most of the shortcomings in their communities.
Rome was not built in a day and our communities should learn to be patient while provinces attend to their grievances. The government is optimistic that many communities which are encountering service delivery challenges will witness significant changes that will change their lives forever. Some people have protested over the poor supply of clean water in their municipalities.
Water is a scarce resource in South Africa and remains a key requirement in the country’s growth and development strategy. In this regard, we have identified key projects to provide more clean water resources. We have allocated some R195 million over 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 for the upgrading and refurbishment of municipal waste water treatment works across the country.
In the 2009/2010 financial year the Department of Water Affairs spent R350m on its dam safety and rehabilitation programme and will spend R850m in the 2010/2011 financial year. The efficient transportation of our people is still a challenge in many communities.
Some of the key deliverables in the transport sector include a reduction of transport costs, improvement in safety, and a reduction in the backlog of road and rail infrastructure. We also have challenges in accessibility to and affordability of quality public transport in both rural and urban areas, and optimisation in freight logistics, which will improve energy efficiency.
To create efficiency and sustainability in the freight industry, Transnet’s R93bn investment in ports, rail and pipeline infrastructure aims to improve efficiencies in these sectors, thereby lowering the cost of doing business. Transnet spent R53.4bn between 2005/2006 and 2008/2009. Major projects to be completed in the current financial year include the widening and deepening of the Durban entrance channel as well as the Port of Ngqura.
In addition, the purpose of the Department of Public Enterprises’ macro-economic impact study, which began in February 2009, is to measure the impact that Transnet’s five-year capital investment programme will have on the national and provincial economies.
It is estimated that this programme will contribute R115.4bn to the national economy by 2018. The investment programme has a major direct impact on the economy. Transnet has had its greatest impact in KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape.
This is to be expected, given the fact that Transnet has large operations in those provinces. While we are concerned that some of the protests we encounter are linked to lack of jobs, we are moving at a pace that should create many new jobs as a result of our planned investments in infrastructure development.
It is therefore unreasonable to protest and at the same time vandalise the very same resources that should be used to create more jobs. In Mpumalanga, the positive impact of Transnet investments is 15 percent of provincial GDP, and an additional 46 016 employment opportunities will be created.
In the Eastern Cape, the positive impact of Transnet investments is 14 percent of provincial GDP, and an additional 62 435 employment opportunities will be created. The Department of Transport has been working closely with all World Cup host cities to ensure the rollout of infrastructure and preparation for the operationalisation of integrated public transport networks.
In Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, the Bus Rapid Transit system forms a core part of the public transport system. We will continue to engage public transport operators to participate and play their part in the BRT system. Our experience is that the taxi industry alone cannot address the challenges of safe, affordable and sustainable transportation of our people. In Johannesburg, the first BRT in Africa commenced phase 1A in August last year with 17 000 passengers daily with the expansion of feeder systems.
In Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, BRT infrastructure construction is well under way. In addition other cities, including EtheKwini and Mbombela, have invested in public transport infrastructure. The financial commitment to BRT has been R4bn up to 2010/2011. Our road and rail infrastructure networks are centre stage in business efficiency and growth. Our road network is benefiting from a government investment of R70bn over three years. Our major road projects include the R23bn Gauteng freeway improvement project.
The estimated total proclaimed road network in South Africa is standing at 535 000km. The optimal road network that Sanral can maintain is 20 000km which has been identified and will be amalgamated into the network. The development of rural roads under the Expanded Public Works Programme throughout the country has been allocated a R3bn budget.
Many commuters use the railway. The government is investing R25bn over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period to stabilise and upgrade rail passenger transport services. Part of this R14bn is being spent to upgrade passenger rail infrastructure and rolling stock while the balance will be funding for rail operations.
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has, since the 2006/2007 financial year, accelerated the rolling stock investment programme. This has resulted in more than 1 500 coaches being refurbished to the tune of R5bn.
An additional 700 coaches will be provided via this programme this year at an estimated cost of R2bn. Prasa is on course to eliminate the historical backlogs in the general overhaul and upgrades for rolling stock.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage South Africans to behave when using our trains and not take to setting trains alight and destroying property, as this would be detrimental to our developmental objectives.
The government is committed to making optimum use of the infrastructure development cluster to add impetus to our growth targets.
Source: www.pretorianews.co.za, 20100305
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