The development of the first Provincial Growth and Development Strategy (PGDS), covering the period 1996-2001, was followed by a two year process leading to the 2004-2014 Provincial Growth and Development Plan (PGDP). The PGDP set ambitious targets, including halving unemployment, reducing poverty by 60%, and growing the economy by a minimum of 5% per annum.
The PGDP strategic framework had six key objectives:
- Developing and transforming the agricultural sector and ensuring food security. The development of agriculture could provide significant numbers of jobs and livelihood opportunities.
- The systematic eradication of poverty to address its human, political and economic aspects
- Manufacturing diversification aimed at changing the industrial structure of the economy and reduce reliance on the automotive sector
- Social and economic infrastructure development
- Human resource development; and
- Public sector and institutional transformation including improved capacity to support growth and development and improved local government as the primary site of delivery.
Social embeddedness of the PGDP was only ever partial, but it is nevertheless the best popular, yet strategic plan for transformation and reconstruction, that the Eastern Cape has seen. The United National Development Programme (UNDP) has hailed it as "…a provincially-driven participatory and interactive planning process” that "helped establish the broad-based consensus on the human development path to be followed by the Province” (PGDP, 2004:3).
Since 2004, numerous sector strategies were developed to implement the PGDP and various attempts were made to embed it across the three spheres of government and among stakeholders, through district growth and development summits. Its targets were however unrealistic in the face of centuries of structural underdevelopment and they were also never revisited in the light of the 2008 global economic crisis.
Three factors in particular limited its impact. Firstly, the fact that the Eastern Cape has continued to operate on the margins of a national growth model primarily focused around mining and finance, and geographically centred in Gauteng. Secondly the reality that many of the critical policy enablers and instruments for PGDP impact were national competencies (land, industrial and economic infrastructure) and that the Province had neither the policy instruments nor resources to implement the PGDP. Co-ordination, integration and lobbying were in reality more realistic roles for the Province. Thirdly, the need for a stronger driving and integrating centre.