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Poll victory is ‘mandate for infrastructure plans’, says Zuma

South African president Jacob Zuma has said the victory of his African National Congress (ANC) party in national elections last week is “a licence to continue” with an ambitious infrastructure development programme.

In his acceptance speech for his second term of office on 10 May, Zuma pledged to “ensure the provision of better roads, universities and colleges, hospitals, dams, railway lines and power stations that boost economic and social development”.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa said the ANC secured more than 62% of total valid votes cast nationally. Zuma said the mandate “gives us the green light to implement the National Development Plan and to promote inclusive economic growth and job creation”.

Zuma said: “There is a lot that we have to do and we are determined to do more as we build the society outlined in the National Development Plan.”

The NDP, the country’s socio-economic blueprint up to 2030, said regional cooperation is needed to tackle a number of challenges facing South Africa. The NDP said: “While South Africa is a water-scarce country, several neighbouring countries have abundant supply... South Africa should invest in and help exploit the wide range of opportunities for low-carbon energy from hydroelectric and other clean energy sources in southern Africa.”

One of the “critical actions” outlined in the NDP is for public infrastructure investment to reach 10% of gross domestic product (GDP), “financed through tariffs, public-private partnerships, taxes and loans and focused on transport, energy and water”.

According to the NDP: “Regional economic integration can boost economic growth in all countries in southern Africa... Achieving economic integration requires identifying practical opportunities where cooperation can offer mutual benefits (including) investment in infrastructure, strengthening regional trade blocs, lowering tariffs and addressing non-tariff barriers such as inefficient border posts.”

The Zuma administration is now expected to press ahead with a series of initiatives announced in the latter months of election campaigning. A ‘gas utilisation master plan’ is scheduled to be released for public consultation this month, setting out detailed development options for projects such as shale gas exploitation, which the country’s Department of Energy has said will seek to make South Africa “energy independent” (4-page / 209 KB PDF).

South Africa’s government had also committed to announcing plans to build new nuclear power plants, with international partners, subject to an election win.

Further development of renewable energy sources will also figure strongly in infrastructure development, South Africa’s deputy energy minister Barbara Thomson told renewable independent power producers (2-page / 100 KB PDF) last month.

A report released by South Africa’s National Treasury in 2012 (16-page / 908 KB PDF) said that, in recent years, the government had sought to accelerate public infrastructure spending, while also encouraging greater private sector investment. The country’s public sector capital investment stood at 7.4% of GDP in 2010, while investment by private enterprises amounted to 12.2% of GDP.

The treasury report said renewable energy also features strongly in South Africa’s long-term energy plans, with a target of providing 21% or 18.9 gigawatts of electric generating capacity from renewables by 2030.

In his state of the union address to legislators last February, Zuma said South Africa’s GDP stood in excess of 3.5 trillion rand (ZAR) ($317 billion).

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