Eradication of Global Poverty
START OF DAY
18 MAY 2006
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
House met at
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe
a moment for silent prayer or meditation.
QUESTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA: Thank you very much. First of all, Madam Speaker,
let me thank the hon Tshivhase for posing this question, which draws our attention
to this important challenge of the eradication of poverty globally. Indeed, as
the question indicates, the United Nations had declared the period 1997-2006 as
the Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. You would be aware that since that
resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, there have at least
three important conferences of the United Nations that have also focused on this
matter, and would therefore have had an impact on the decisions that were taken
at that time by the General Assembly. I am referring here to the World Summit
on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the Millennium Conference Summit of
the United Nations in 2000 and the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development,
all of which also addressed this particular matter.
The hon member wants
to know what contribution has been made by South Africa to the effort to eradicate
global poverty. To that extent she is not asking that we address matters that
are domestic. I must say that our own efforts to address the matter of poverty
have got to start at home. Our first response to that Decade for the Eradication
of Poverty has got to be about what we are doing domestically. With regard to
that, I would like to say that indeed ever since a democratic government was constituted,
our programmes have focused precisely on this issue and it would be quite possible,
quite easy relatively, to give a comprehensive account to the NA as to what has
been done with regard to this, whether it relates to the management of the public
finances, measures that have been introduced in order to achieve redistribution
of wealth and income, matters that relate to interventions in the economy to make
it grow, so that we got greater volumes of wealth, with which to address this
matter, and various other matters.
That would indeed be our first response
about South Africa's contribution to the effort to eradicate global poverty that
would have to be the domestic effort to address what is indeed a very important
matter in our country. Centrally what we have done in the last 12 years has indeed
been to focus on this issue.
The second element of that response has been
on the continent and therefore more relevant on the continent of Africa and to
the question that the hon member posed. I will say something about that. The third
element of that response is the more global participation of our country in processes
that have sought to address this matter.
The resolution of the General Assembly
in December 1996, which declared this Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, said
that eradicating poverty is an ethical, social, political and economic imperative
of humankind. The main objective of the Decade was the eradication of absolute
poverty and the substantial reduction of overall poverty in the world. It constituted
a commitment by the developing countries to direct resources freed through debt
relief, debt reduction, debt cancellation, to an integrated poverty eradication
strategy and national plans towards poverty eradicating activities, sustainable
economic growth and development, social protection for the poorest and the most
vulnerable, including women and children, priority areas of the social sector
spending, including provision of basic services, primary education and health
care, good governance, including the economic and political empowerment of citizens,
efficient, transparent and accountable institutions and internationally agreed
millennium development goals, which came later.
Further, it also constituted
a commitment by the developed countries to promote capacity-building and facilitate
access to and transfer technologies and corresponding knowledge on favourable
terms, ensuring a more open and equitable system of international finance, facilitating
access by the poor in the developing countries to micro finance, increasing development
assistance to 0,7% of the gross national product of the wealthier countries, with
greater co-ordination of that assistance, and opening the markets of the developed
countries to the exports of the developing countries.
We had to respond
to those goals as set by that resolution of the General Assembly, which declared
the Decade. Last year's United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals
came to the conclusion, clearly, that insufficient progress has been made towards
the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals decided in 2000. It drew particular
attention to the fact that our continent was falling behind with regard to this.
The commitment by the developed countries to increase their development assistance
to that 0,7% of GNP had not been met by most countries, except the Nordic countries
and the Netherlands. It said, nevertheless, that absolute poverty in most parts
of the world had declined but had increased in Africa by 100 million people since
1990. However, the trend of economic growth in Africa has shown an upswing of
1,2% per year since 2000.
I think members are familiar with what we have
been doing with regard to what I said, was a second response to the challenge
that was posed by the United Nations. That second response concentrated on the
African continent. There is general agreement - and I know there is general agreement
- that what is fundamentally important on the African continent in order to achieve
this objective of the eradication of poverty and achieving the necessary rates
of growth, is the matter of achieving peace and stability, security, freedom and
democracy on our continent, so that we do indeed create the conditions that would
enable us to address the development challenges which the Decade sought to address.
In that regard, I think the House is familiar with the work that we have been
doing as a country to assist in the resolution of a whole variety of problems
and challenges on the continent that have to do with peace and stability and democracy,
including the interventions that we have made with regard to the DRC, Rwanda,
to Burundi, Somalia, the Darfur region, Côte d'Ivoire, the Comores and that
is a very important part of the response that we have made as a country to the
call by the United Nations that we should indeed eradicate global poverty. I am
happy to say that indeed with regard to all of these matters, where we have intervened,
that there is indeed progress. It does not mean that there are no problems that
Recently, the Cabinet made a decision that we should contribute
to a multilateral debt relief initiative and commit to once-off payments to the
World Bank's International Development Association or IDA, and to the African
Development Bank. The objective of this intervention is to deepen debt relief
to the highly indebted poor countries, in order to help them to reach their Millennium
Globally we actively participate in all manner of initiatives,
including the negotiations at the WTO, to build a global trading system focused
on what was agreed on at Doha, which was correctly characterised as a Doha development
round. I think again globally there is acceptance that the world trading system
needs to be changed in a manner that would impact positively on this matter of
addressing global poverty. I better stop, Madam Speaker.
The SPEAKER: I
have allowed the President to continue to respond on this very, very crucial matter
because unless the world solves the problem of poverty, we are not doing anything
as leaders. I was also praying that President would look to his left - and indeed
he saw it.
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Your prayer has been answered,
Madam Speaker. [Laughter.]
FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS:
Mrs T J TSHIVHASE:
*** Language spoken has changed to Tshivenda ***
Ndi a livhuwa Mulangadzulo.
Ndi na inwe mbudziso hafhu ine nda khou i livhisa kha Mailausumbwa. Ro lavhelesa
vhukondi he ha vha hone kha luta lwa u fhedzisela lwa nyambedzano dza WTO, ndi
afhio maga a u dzhenelela ane Afurika Tshipembe la tea u a tevhela? [Zwiseo.]
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC : Madam Speaker, can I ask Minister Mufamadi to translate
The SPEAKER: Yes, unfortunately the President does
not have the equipment to be able to hear the interpreting services.
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: What I know is how to do the tshikona, Madam Speaker.
The MINISTER FOR PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Speaking one
of the eleven languages that are recognised in the country, the hon Tshivhase
wants to know, in view of the difficulties that were experienced during the WTO
negotiations, especially during the last round of the WTO negotiations, what steps
does the President think South Africa needs to follow in order to ensure that,
notwithstanding those difficulties, progress can be realised?
OF THE REPUBLIC: I do trust that the hon Minister translated that correctly. [Laughter.]
The issue of the WTO negotiations is a matter of concern to everybody around the
world. As I had indicated, all of us accepted, and all of us said that this was
the Doha development round. Central to the outcome of the Doha WTO process was
this matter of development and therefore the fundamental outcome of this process
of negotiations at the WTO would indeed have to address the issue of development
and therefore, the matter of the reduction of poverty globally, as was indicated
during this Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.
There is indeed a serious
problem and part of it relates to agreement with regard to agricultural support
provided to farmers, both within the European Union and the United States, which
creates these problems of access by agricultural products from the developing
We still hope that in the ongoing negotiations, both the EU and
the United States in particular, would be able to change their positions - and
I say, we hope, since none of us can make any commitment that they will do so
- so that the issues about market access and the possibility for agricultural
products from the developing countries to enter these markets on a just basis,
without having to confront the subsidies provided to the farmers in these areas,
would indeed be able to change their positions with regard to this.
Africa belongs to the important group engaged in the negotiations, the G20, South
Africa continues to engage with that group to try and persuade the developed world
to make the necessary changes. We interact with these processes in all other forums,
in order to achieve this objective. The answer to the question is that we shall
continue to do what we did in the past to engage as vigorously as we can, to negotiate
and produce a successful and acceptable outcome with regard to this issue of market
access for agricultural products, and therefore the related issues of subsidies
paid by the developed countries to their farmers.
The SPEAKER: We now pass
on to question 8 posed by the hon Gomomo. I don't see any supplementary questions
on my screen. I am very glad to see them now.
Mr M J ELLIS: Madam Speaker,
certainly it must mean again that the process is not working. I don't want to
ask a question, but certainly Mr Boinamo does.
Mr G G BOINAMO: Thank you,
Madam Speaker. Hon President, as part of the global community, South Africa is
also concerned with the eradication of poverty within its own borders. In September
2005 the UN released its annual human development report. The HDI focuses on three
measurable dimensions of human development: leading a long and healthy life, being
educated and having a decent standard of living. South Africa ranked 120th out
of 177 countries and has fallen 35 places since 1990. How does the President explain
this dramatic drop in the standard of living in our country under this government,
and what steps is he taking to reverse the situation?
THE PRESIDENT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA: Madam Speaker, the report to which the hon member
refers is not prepared by us. It is prepared by the UNDP and maybe they are the
ones who should explain how they have come to this conclusion. [Applause.] The
conclusion is wrong. The conclusion is patently wrong. The Minister of Finance,
hon Trevor Manuel, has indeed been engaging the United Nations Development Programme
on this report to ask them very specific questions about the actual information
on which base these conclusions. I would imagine that the UNDP would in time provide
us with that information. We are quite convinced that information is wrong; the
information on which they based this determination to which the hon member has
referred. They made the determination but quite how they did it, is exactly the
same explanation that we are seeking. The hon member says I must explain it but
we did not draw up the report. It is not our report. The UNDP must explain and
that is why the Minister of Finance is engaging them to get that explanation.
I am quite sure, that should the UNDP point us to certain realities of South Africa,
which had resulted in us falling 35 places on the list, they should point us to
those factors, which resulted in that factually. We would address them. I am quite
convinced that the report is wrong and I would be very interested to hear how
the UNDP explains itself.
Ms S C VOS: Thank you, Speaker, Mr President,
as you have indicated, in global terms the continent of Africa must be seen as
the most in need in terms of poverty eradication. Now regional economic integration
and political co-operation have been agreed by African leadership as vital to
achieve this and has been envisaged that in a multi-phased approach, first of
all, dismantled tariff barriers and customs duties among African countries, moving
finally to an African common market. How confident are you that this can be achieved
in the short term? There were documents that I have looked at and this would hopefully
be done by 2007. This does not seem to be the case. Would you give us some idea
of your views in terms of how we can reach these goals in terms of regional integration
and what the problems are?
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Speaker,
I suppose it does depend on how short the short term is. If the short term ends
in 2007, then it is too short. In the course of the implementation of the Nepad
programmes, one of the matters that has become very clear, it that a lot of work
needs to be done to strengthen the regional economic communities, SADC, Ecowas
and so on. These are central instruments in terms of achieving the economic integration
of the continent that we aspire to, to which the hon member refers. This includes
the matter of creating free trade areas on the continent, regionally and then
building up to cover the continent as a whole. One of the serious problems that
has surfaced has been that our regional economic communities are not strong enough,
don't have sufficient capacity, haven't had the capacity to do the things that
needed to be done, in order to achieve the objectives that the hon member correctly
refers. As a consequence of that, there has been a very regular interaction between
the Nepad steering committee, the Nepad secretariat and the regional economic
communities to address this matter. We have set with the co-operation of our development
partners, a specific fund based at the African Development Bank to assist precisely
with regard to this, to ensure that we are able to beef up the capacity, improve
the effectiveness of the regional economic communities, so that indeed they can
discharge their responsibilities with regard to this integration. It is necessary
and it has to be done.
If our short term were 2007, we would have to extend
it a bit beyond that. It is indeed not possible that we would achieve this African
common market within a short timeframe.
Mr L M GREEN: Hon President, there
seems to be two schools of thought in this debate on the eradication of poverty.
On the one hand you have the school of thought and they often say this, that since
the coming to power of our new government since 1994 and up till now, there is
a school of thought that says that in fact, poverty has doubled. Amongst those
people is the South African Institute of Race Relations with their recent 700-page
report, indicating that has in fact happened. On the other hand, there is the
school of thought - and maybe this seem to be the stronger of the two - which
says that poverty has in fact been reduced in South Africa, given the government
social spending, the amount that has gone into grants, electrification. . .
SPEAKER: Your minute is finishing in two seconds.
Mr L M GREEN: Mr President,
could you tell us as the leader of our nation, whether you believe that poverty
has significantly been reduced by the present government?
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA: The hon member is quite correct about the serious
challenges you mentioned a bit earlier on. The serious challenge of poverty in
our country has to be at the centre of everything that we do. Therefore, we shouldn't
respond to it, whether this school of thought is right and this one is wrong,
as a matter of belief. The hon member said whether I believe it. It should not
be a matter of belief. It ought to be a matter of the actuality, the facts about
what is actually happening. I am quite certain that there would be no logical
reason why, with everything that has happened in the country, that people are
poorer now than they were in 1994. It is an illogical proposition.
not know if you saw an article written by Dr Gumede in our media responding to
the report of the Institute of Race Relations to which you referred. I read the
article because Dr Gumede said I must read it. He didn't express beliefs. He presented
facts in that report. He indeed cited studies by other academics in the country,
which said precisely the opposite of what the Institute of Race Relations had
said. I can explain clearly why it is the case and on what facts I would base
my own conclusions on, that a school of thought which says that there has been
an increase in poverty in the country, would obviously be wrong. It relates to
the matter that was raised earlier concerning the human development report of
the UNDP. Even they can't adduce these facts, which would result in a conclusion
that the situation has gotten worst in the country since 1994. Beyond belief,
basing us on facts, I am quite sure that the Institute of Race Relations was quite