South Africa has set itself the objective of building a developmental state. This entails, among other tasks, crafting a long-term vision and plan, and forging both the macro- and micro-organisational underpinnings necessary to realise this objective. The express desire to build a developmental state arose in the mid-2000s and the long-term plan was adopted in 2012. Before then, there had been efforts to establish a ‘pilot agency’ at the centre of government in the form of the Policy Coordination and Advisory Services (PCAS), a unit that was maturing with experience. Ironically, in the aftermath of the adoption of the National Development Plan in 2012, and despite the new planning and monitoring and evaluation structures that were set up, state capacity was degraded through state capture. 

This paper examines the notion of a developmental state and the discourse around national planning in the current global conjuncture.