The Expanded Public Works Programme: Reflections from South Africa


  • Oliver Mtapuri


This article reviews public works programmes as a way to alleviate poverty using experiences from around the world in general and South Africa in particular. It interrogates the targeting mechanisms including the question of who benefits, the type of benefit as well as the type of public works. The article argues that the design of public works must take cognizance of whether the initiative is attempting to address chronic and/or transient unemployment as this has a bearing on the thrust of the initiative either to address transient and/or chronic unemployment especially given the multi-dimensional nature of poverty. The article also argues that public works have multiple effects which include distributional effects; real (household) income effects; participation effects; labour market effects; decentralization effects; sustainability effects; investment effects; productivity effects; political economy effects; technical effects; as well as targeting effects. It also argues, using perceptual maps, that when developing public works, it is critical to define the issue which needs to be addressed a priori such as sanitation, HIV/AIDS, food security, unemployment, rural infrastructure development, income, poverty and so forth. The perceptual maps, and the trajectories which they portray, are the major contribution of this article. Public works can span various social and economic sectors such as social services, infrastructure development, early childhood development (ECD) and home- and community-based care (HCBC); community-based waste management, environmental conservation, wildfire management and so forth. The article argues that all interventions should be tested for viability, sustainability and appropriateness within a given context.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n8p544


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How to Cite

The Expanded Public Works Programme: Reflections from South Africa. (2014). Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(8), 544.