The COVID‑19 crisis has weakened an already fragile economy. South Africa’s growth underperformed during the past decade: GDP per capita was already lower in 2019 than in 2008. Unemployment remains high, at around 35%, and youth unemployment even exceeds 50%. In the meantime, spending pressures are mounting to close the financing gap in health, infrastructure and higher education. To finance those needs while putting public finances on a more sustainable path, which is key to restore confidence, spending efficiency should improve and be accompanied with increased government tax revenues.
After a strong rebound in 2021, GDP is projected to grow by 1.8% and 1.3% in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Household consumption and investment will remain the main drivers of growth. Household income will benefit from the continuation of the COVID-relief grant. The commodity prices boom will support exports. Investment will continue to strengthen over the projection horizon. Inflation reached close to 6% in early 2022, and is projected to increase further due to higher energy prices before starting to fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of workers to lose their jobs, while the number of discouraged workers increased. Investment has been on a downward path already before the crisis, marred by policy uncertainty, and lack of essential infrastructure. Regulatory restrictions in many areas are a threat to the recovery. Stronger growth is needed to place the government debt trajectory on a sustainable path and to finance large unmet needs in education, health and social spending.
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