Point. Seven. Per­cent

Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee

CityPress - - Voices -

PER­CENT 25

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In the po­lit­i­cal may­hem of this week, a small num­ber has gone rel­a­tively un­no­ticed. The econ­omy grew by 0.7% in the past quar­ter.

That’s ter­ri­ble. It’s way be­low our peers on the rest of our con­ti­nent. And it’s well un­der our own pro­jec­tions in ev­ery­thing from the bud­get to the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan.

Our col­lec­tive heads swung from side to side in the ten­nis match-like brawl between the gov­ern­ing ANC and Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela. But I’d ar­gue that anaemic growth is a much greater po­lit­i­cal risk to the gov­ern­ment – and one it seems blithely un­aware of.

The col­lapse of Abil is more than an economic story; it is a deeply po­lit­i­cal one. And if you look at the re­tail num­bers for the same quar­ter, it’s clear the mid­dle and work­ing classes are un­der the whip.

Loan re­pay­ment rates have plum­meted so that al­most one in three un­se­cured loans is in ar­rears. Fig­ures on food in­fla­tion pub­lished by City Press last week show price hikes are far higher than of­fi­cial in­fla­tion would sug­gest.

We know from monthly food bills that the black mid­dle class is stressed; this is largely why the campaign against elec­tronic road tolling has had such suc­cess. Add in the com­ing hikes in power costs (the reg­u­la­tor is set to al­low Eskom an in­crease in tar­iffs to fund its in­vest­ment costs) and you have a pop­u­la­tion that could be tipped over the edge and away from its his­tor­i­cal sup­port for the ANC.

The chat­ter­ing classes (that’s us) may think peo­ple are moved by over­spend­ing on Nkandla or the spy tapes. But that’s not true.

It’s the econ­omy, stupid. Always has been and always will be.

With a large por­tion of the Cabi­net drawn into the fight to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma from ac­count­ing for Nkandla, their col­lec­tive eye is off the econ­omy and, there­fore, jobs growth. In cri­sis, the state is un­able to im­ple­ment the coun­ter­cycli­cal mea­sures that have pro­tected the ANC from the po­lit­i­cal im­pact of pre­vi­ous near-re­ces­sions. Rather than #pay­back­the­money, the gov­ern­ment should be fo­cus­ing on #mak­ingth­e­money.

Rel­a­tive sizes of sec­tors

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