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Country Forecast South Africa March 2018 Updater

Country Forecast South Africa March 2018 Updater

  • March 2018
  • ID: 5365387
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit


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  • The installation of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president in February, after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) forced Jacob Zuma to resign, improves the political and economic outlook, and boosts the party's prospects of retaining power at the next election in 2019. Mr Ramaphosa's attempts to rebuild party unity will, nonetheless, involve inevitable compromises, which risks diluting proposed reforms.
  • The new president's sweeping cabinet reshuffle adds to the positive sentiment after he ousted several (but not all) pro-Zuma loyalists and reappointed some respected ministers who had been sacked by the former president during his periodic purges. Nhlanhla Nene, for example, returns to the Ministry of Finance.
  • Boosting growth within a context of tighter fiscal policy and global uncertainty will remain a key challenge. The budget for 2018/19 (April-March) heralds a return to fiscal consolidation, underpinned by a rise in value-added tax to 15%, which will probably help South Africa to avoid another ratings downgrade. However, tax rises will weigh on growth, and fiscal risks linked to higher spending will persist. The main medium-term challenge is to overcome structural constraints to faster growth, such as infrastructure bottlenecks and skills shortages.
  • Prospects for economic reform are brighter under Mr Ramaphosa but progress will be erratic, advancing more quickly for mining laws than for labour laws. Compliance with black economic empowerment targets will remain a challenge for corporates, especially given frequent changes to the legal framework. The ANC's commitment to expropriation without compensation poses some risks, but would first require a constitutional amendment.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit expects a modest acceleration in real GDP growth to 1.5% in 2018, but the rate of expansion will be lacklustre, as fiscal tightening offsets the benefits of a potential reduction in interest rates. Economic growth will remain subdued in 2019, at 1.7%, constrained by election-related uncertainties, before quickening to about 2.5% a year in 2020-22, underpinned by the completion of major infrastructure projects. Electricity shortages are unlikely to reappear during the forecast period.
  • Inflation is forecast to average 5.1% in 2018, helped by a recovery in the rand since Mr Ramaphosa's election as the new ANC leader and his subsequent installation as president. Inflation will average 5.6% during the remainder of the forecast period.

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