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S. African President Unveils Anti-Poverty Plan - 2004-05-21


South African President Thabo Mbeki has unveiled a detailed plan to fight poverty and boost the South African economy. He was delivering his first state-of-the-nation address to parliament since his landslide re-election last month.

This was the speech in which President Mbeki outlined his plan for delivering on the promises he made to the South African people during his re-election campaign.

To win the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, President Mbeki pledged to boost the economy, help create jobs and address the needs of the working poor.

He vowed to build what he called "a social security net of grants" to support the most impoverished. He said government will spend more than $25 billion on social security over the next three years.

"However, a society in which large sections depend on social welfare cannot sustain its development," President Mbeki said. "Our comprehensive program to grow the economy, including the interventions in both the first and second economies, improving sustainable livelihoods and create work is meant precisely to ensure that, over time, a smaller proportion of society, in particular the most vulnerable, subsists solely on social grants."

The speech was heavy on details. The president listed specific policy initiatives, with concrete goals and deadlines for accomplishing them.

He vowed that every South African household will have access to clean running water within five years, and electricity within eight. He promised to boost the number of police on the streets in order to reduce the country's staggeringly high crime rates.

"In the next three months, we will set up special joint teams to target and focus on serious criminals, with an immediate objective of apprehending the top 200 criminals in the country, using all legal instruments to bring them to justice," he said.

Mr. Mbeki also renewed his commitment to working for peace and development on the rest of the continent and the world. He reminded lawmakers that South Africa celebrated its first decade of freedom less than a month ago, and last Saturday won the right to host the 2010 football (soccer) World Cup.

"These two celebrations, of our 10th anniversary and the success of our bid, confirm the strength of the sentiment shared by millions across the globe, for a world of peace, democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism and freedom from poverty," he said. "They speak of a shared dream for international solidarity and friendship among the peoples, and the victory of the African renaissance."

Mr. Mbeki said the time may have come for a united worldwide movement to create what he called a new world order, and address the needs of the poor and marginalized around the globe.

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