Category Economy
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SA economy- faces challenges but liquidations down

20 September 2012 Saijil Singh, lead analyst, Coface South Africa, the international credit insurer

South Africa’s projected GDP growth remains at 2,9% for 2012. However, this growth may not be sustainable because of the recent strike actions, especially in the mining industry.

The gross domestic product (GDP) in South Africa expanded 3,2% in the second quarter of 2012, q/q (SAAR) from a previous 2,7% for Q1 2012. Historically, from 1993 to 2012, the GDP growth rate averaged 3,3% reaching an all time high of 7,6% in December of 1994 and a record low of -6,3% in March of 2009.

South Africa has a two-tiered economy; one rivalling other developed countries and the other with only the most basic infrastructure. SA is therefore a productive and industrialised economy that exhibits many characteristics associated with developing countries, including a division of labour between formal and informal sectors and an uneven distribution of wealth and income.

It should be noted that it is difficult to compare GDP growth with other developing countries because South Africa is more mature and doesn’t have the growth potential associated with newly established economies. The economy is however not a developed economy because there is large scale unemployment and inequality.

South Africa’s economy accounts for 24% of total African continent’s GDP in terms of PPP, and is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank.

South Africa’s current infrastructure is inadequate as a result of years of under investment. From a starting budget of R370-billion announced in 2005, government’s multi-year infrastructure investment drive has ballooned to nearly R850-billion to be spent over the next three years and as much as R3,2-trillion to be invested over the next eight years. Government plans to achieve real growth of 10%-15% per annum in investment spend.

Import growth has seen a widening of the trade balance deficit. The deficit widened to R6,7-billion from R5,7-billion in June, showing a deficit for seven consecutive months. Exports and imports both increased in July by 2,9% and 4% (m/m) respectively compared to June. On an annual basis, exports rose by 12,4% in June 2012 and imports by 16,2%, compared to June 2011.

The agricultural sector expanded from R18-billion in the first quarter to R31-billion in the second quarter of 2012. Further expansions is anticipated for the remainder of the year. Mining and quarrying have also seen a significant increase of 3,2% q/q (SAAR).

However this trend is not sustainable due to the unrest at certain mines, causing reduced production. Manufacturing also decreased slightly by 1% over the first two quarters of 2012. This is attributed to lowered production in basic iron and steel, non-ferrous metal products, metal products and machinery.

Year to date we have seen a decrease in both the number of civil summonses and civil judgments decreasing by 7,7% and 9,5% year-on-year respectively. Company and close corporation liquidations have also declined, with a 12,4% decrease in the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

With South Africa still using sole proprietorships as a choice of business, we have also seen a decrease in the amount of insolvencies, down by 16% year-on-year. We expect this trend in civil judgments, liquidations and insolvencies to continue decreasing in the coming months. But considering the slowdown of the global markets, this trend may be erratic in the near future.

The unemployment rate was 24,9% for the 2nd quarter of 2012, down from the 1st quarter at 25,2%. In the last 10 years unemployment has ranged from 21,9% to 31,2%. However, government has identified that the unemployment rate is a major issue, especially with the younger generations, and has set out a new growth strategy to reduce unemployment and create an additional 5-million jobs by the year 2020.

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