The Slow Delivery of Social Infrastructure
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the challenges faced by communities around the world, in accessing necessary facilities that could have resulted in better resilience in response measures taken towards combating the devastating socio-economic impact that the virus had. The lack of social infrastructure projects put forward in the inaugural SIDSSA, prompted ISA to focus its attention more on the needs of our social sectors as the pandemic emphasised the need for increased investment and an expedited delivery of social infrastructure. In distilling the challenges faced in delivering social infrastructure, four main themes emerge:
- Monitoring and Evaluation
A manifestation of the social infrastructure delivery challenges, for example, is a backlog of more than 3200 new schools that need to be built. As well as the refurbishment of schools to comply with the basic norms and standards as gazetted in 2013. The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) was established and aimed at ensuring that all schools meet the basic norms and standards, funded through a special ASIDI grant. Over and above the ASIDI intervention, the Department of Basic Education introduced the school build programme which is aimed at addressing the backlog. This programme will be implemented by provinces and is funded through the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) and provincial contributions.
An Accelerated Social Infrastructure Funding and Implementation Concept
In order to facilitate the acceleration of basic education infrastructure delivery, an implementable funding solution is proposed and is intended to accelerate school infrastructure development in South Africa. The concept proposes the establishment of a programme governance structure to manage the delivery of the infrastructure, resolve implementation challenges and ensure robust monitoring and evaluation. The sustainability theme can be introduced through infrastructure designs incorporating Alternative Building Technologies (ABT) and the efficient use of energy. Furthermore, the concept proposes the development of a funding vehicle which is structured to crowd in commercial funders, institutional investors such as pension funds and development financiers through consolidating debt and grant funding into a stand-alone entity and potentially leveraging an appropriate blended finance instrument.
Although still in concept stage, proactive engagement with the relevant stakeholders has commenced with robust debate and concept development is anticipated to follow. Nonetheless, the exercise of exploring different and innovative financing mechanisms is anticipated to steer the infrastructure delivery conversations to be more solution-orientated in nature and to be replicated in other social sectors as well.