PAINT­ING A PIC­TURE

This se­ries of graphs tells an elo­quent story of SA’S economy, and society, in stark de­tail

Financial Mail - - COVER STORY/ SA ECONOMY IN GRAPHS - Claire Bis­seker, Vuyo Singiswa and Shaun Uthum

Since 2009, SA has been slid­ing down­wards into a swamp of low growth marked by ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and so­cial dis­con­tent. This se­ries of hand­picked graphs tells an elo­quent story of what hap­pened un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, and what we’re likely to have to deal with un­der his suc­ces­sor, Cyril Ramaphosa. In the ab­sence of any dis­cernible growth pol­icy — and the gov­ern­ment’s in­abil­ity to turn what lit­tle growth SA has had into ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards — un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity are stuck at wor­ry­ing lev­els. This is the big­gest threat to SA’S fu­ture.

The fact is, Ramaphosa has in­her­ited a coun­try that gen­er­ates more un­em­ploy­ment than growth; a dys­func­tional ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that en­trenches in­equal­ity; and an economy that is no longer in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pet­i­tive, bar a few ex­cep­tions like the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor and tourism. His task is to break the cy­cle of dis­ap­point­ing growth, fis­cal slip­page and re­peated credit-rat­ing down­grades.

The graphs cap­tured here in­di­cate that SA has a moun­tain to climb. Un­for­tu­nately, the gov­ern­ment has nei­ther the funds nor the ca­pac­ity to do so. The economy’s tra­di­tional growth driv­ers are ex­hausted and the fis­cal cup­board is bare. The only op­tion left is to in­vite the pri­vate sec­tor into a part­ner­ship to re­vive con­fi­dence and in­vest­ment to boost job cre­ation.

This is Ramaphosa’s stated ap­proach, but he will have to go fur­ther and faster to com­bat SA’S mount­ing so­cial and fis­cal prob­lems. Com­bined with ed­u­ca­tion re­form, rapid eco­nomic growth is the only sus­tain­able way to lift most of the coun­try out of poverty and ex­tin­guish the threat of a pop­ulist dis­as­ter.

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