Creating equity in basic education and housing in South Africa

In view of the political history of the Republic of South Africa, it is imperative for the current government to be seen to be delivering quality housing, education, health and jobs for its people—especially to the poor and indigent.  Although much has already been done, there are so many diverse needs that it would be sensible to focus on the “burning platforms” to lay a solid foundation in sustainable development for the future. In light of the transformational power of education and the stabilisation effect of proper housing—South Africa has very high crime rates—it would seem that the first areas of additional focus should be basic education and housing.

Education

The achievement of goals in the public sector is always a delicate balance between the needs and the available resources.  The South African government is committed to prioritising the fast-track delivery of education.The Department of Basic Education Strategic Plan highlighted some of the key challenges that characterise the South African educational system:

  • the provision of learning and teaching support materials
  • the improvement of schools infrastructure including buildings, water, sanitation, electrification and the provision of furniture and desks in schools
  • the improvement of the health of children in schools
  • poor learning outcomes across all grades
  • insufficient benchmarked measurement of learning outcomes
  • insufficient access to quality teaching and learning materials,
  • lack of productivity and ineffective use of time in the classroom
  • a general lack of access to basic education
  • a focus on rote-learning instead of more innovative approaches

The spending focus over the medium term will be on the delivery of school infrastructure to meet the minimum basic school infrastructure norms and standards as laid out by government by 2016/2017.  Whether the amount allocated in the 2016 budget will be sufficient to tackle this remains to be seen.

Housing

The current government inherited a critical housing shortage and so housing is also at the forefront of the national agenda for delivery.  It has been estimated that it would cost approximately $54.43 billion to eradicate the housing backlog by 2020. However, access to finance remains the biggest obstacle to housing delivery.

A new model for housing delivery?

There are many weaknesses in the current housing model including inefficiencies that lead to long waiting lists, slow delivery and limited progress on putting up new houses.  Perhaps it is time to consider a new model for housing delivery.

Innovative Financing for Development

There is a specific kind of transformational and innovative financing mechanism that can be leveraged by any country individually and is fully controlled by the respective government, according to their own specific budget priorities.  Innovative Financing for Development (IFD) encompasses any financial means that does not include official development aid (ODA).The South African government could be assisted in getting to grips with the delivery of quality basic education and housing—achieving these two challenges will require a huge injection of funds to level the playing fields.  IFD can provide the necessary financing boost.

A micro-contribution makes a mega difference

How this works—A micro-contribution is applied to globalised sectors some of which are: telecommunications, travel and tourism, financial transactions, minerals and mining—this list is not exhaustive as there are many potential sources of revenue that could be exploited. This approach creates a new revenue stream for the government and is in keeping with the views of the United Nations, IMF and World Bank with regard to sustainable development. The micro-contributions are very small and do not impact on local users and service-providers.

No need to rely on foreign debt

The successful implementation of innovative financing in a growing number of countries demonstrates that governments do not have to rely solely on debt and foreign aid to mobilise financial resources for their sustainable development projects.  Revenue streams from international telephone calls, mobile money transactions, SMSs, remittances and international arrivals and departures that have been identified for these two specific projects (education and housing) represent cash inflows of USD 4 billion over a five-year period

South Africa can mobilise these untapped resources and also secure them in a sustainable way through the implementation of proven revenue-assurance solutions. There is no reason why the government of South Africa should not be empowered to reduce the backlog in education and housing in this way.