Johannesburg - The National Development Plan (NDP) tries to do too much and its costly ambitions are not discussed, the SA Institute of Race Relations said on Monday.
"It reads as if various government departments have provided wish-lists without much attempt to pull them all together," it said in the July edition of its monthly magazine Fast Facts.
"But one thing the NDP does not do is put a price tag on all the wish lists it incorporates and endorses."
These included an extension of tertiary education, faster land reform, national health insurance, racial preferencing in procurement contracts, and guaranteed minimum living standards subsidies of various kinds.
There was no chapter in the 500 page document discussing how all of this would be paid for, the SAIRR said.
Here and there were reference to taxpayers having to fund things where there were no user charges, and that raising taxes might reduce profitability.
It was assumed that if the economy grew more than 5% a year, government revenue and the profit of private firms would more than double over the next 20 years, but whether this would be enough to fund all the plans in the NDP was not discussed.
"There are employment scenarios, but no scenarios about tax revenue, or the budget deficit, or public debt," the SAIRR said.
"To endorse the NDP amounts to giving government a blank cheque for more taxation and more borrowing and probably for both."
The institute said there were many internal contradictions within the document, but it was also undermined by external contradictions.
There was also no "command centre" to implement the plan.
"The nominally responsible [Minister in the Presidency for National Planning Commission] Trevor Manuel, has no executive authority.
"But ministers who are actually running departments do as they please, since President Jacob Zuma fails to exercise any leadership over his government," the SAIRR said.
It said departments which were key to the success or failure of the NDP were headed by ministers, some of them SA Communist Party members, who believed in more state control and were busy extending it.
These departments were trade and industry, mineral resources, energy, communications, economic development, agriculture, public enterprises, public works, higher education and labour.
"For them, in fact, the NDP is the perfect smokescreen.
"While the attention of the country is focused on the NDP... these ministers can steadily introduce dirigiste legislation in mining, energy, employment equity, black economic empowerment, labour, business licensing, land, and property rights."
Dirigiste legislation is directed by a central authority and controlled by the state.