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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

6 Social And Sectoral Policies

The past two years have witnessed an energetic review of social and sectoral policies in keeping with RDP objectives. Public policies which affect women have come under scrutiny, programmes of action for children have been developed and a strategy for the disabled has been put forward. Land reform, agricultural development, protection of the environment, programmes in arts and culture, technology enhancement, crime prevention, national defence, urban infrastructure and housing, water and sanitation and primary health services are just some of the areas in which detailed analysis and extensive public discussion have led to major policy revision.

The focus of this document is the overall macroeconomic environment. Social and sectoral policy development cannot be outlined comprehensively here, but a few key linkages between growth, redistribution and new policy directions are highlighted below.

6.1 Education

Progress in education shows up consistently in comparative studies as a key determinant of long-run economic performance and income redistribution. Sustained improvements in the quality of public schooling available to the poor and greater equity in the flow of students through secondary and tertiary education are central to the Government's approach. Despite near-universal enrolment in primary education, only some 40 per cent of children currently complete secondary schooling successfully. Inadequate pass rates in science and mathematics are cause for concern.

Reform initiatives under way, aimed at qualitative improvements in the educational system, include restructuring and decentralising of school governance and management, overhauling school curricula, establishing a national qualifications framework, addressing the culture of learning in schools, building and refurbishment of classrooms, rationalising and renewing teacher education, enhancing educational administration, and expanding further education. Suitable norms, together with quality enhancing rewards, are under review. With spending on education at nearly 7 percent of GDP there is a need to contain expenditure through reductions in subsidisation of the more expensive parts of the system and greater private sector involvement in higher education. This will concentrate public resources on enhancing the educational opportunities of historically disadvantaged communities.

6.2 Health and welfare services

The systematic restructuring of health services, with a strong emphasis on universal and free access to comprehensive primary care, represents a clear commitment to improving the health conditions of the poor. Within the public health system resources are shifting from tertiary services in metropolitan areas towards overcoming the inadequacies of hospitals and clinics in rural areas and townships.

Partnerships between the state and voluntary organisations centred on developmental welfare services will focus attention on the vulnerable, especially in under-serviced areas, while freeing resources from expensive institutionally-based services. By far the greater part of welfare spending is devoted to social grants, which assist some 3 million elderly or disabled persons or needy children. These transfers play a vital role in poverty alleviation, especially in rural areas. Affordable alternatives to support families and children in need are being investigated.

6.3 Housing, land reform and infrastructure

The implementation of the housing and infrastructure programmes has been slow, with continuous refinements to the policy framework. Since late 1995, an acceleration in housing delivery has been evident. A continuation of this trend will see the provision of housing and related services on a substantial scale. This will have several beneficial distributional effects. Construction is largely labour intensive and provides jobs and training, while improvements in housing and infrastructure enhance the productivity of labour and the quality of urban life.

Improved water and sanitation is typically the first priority of rural communities. Some 500 projects costing R1,5 billion have been committed. Rapid progress with the supply of potable water to the 12 million people without adequate access will be a major contribution to poverty relief. These initiatives have been complemented by new policies regarding sanitation systems.

The land reform programme, combining asset redistribution with enhancement of tenure has an important role in improving the long-term prospects for employment and income generation in the rural economy. Progress has been made to finalising procedures for the rapid release of land and the introduction of a settlement grant. Complementary initiatives include emergent farmer support programmes. As these gain momentum, emphasis will shift to marketing support, appropriate technological interventions and streamlined extension services. Over time, agricultural development associated with land reform will play a key role in improving the distribution of income and economic activity.

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