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South African economic growth in 2017 offers ‘cautious cheer’

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African economy grew 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, making the yearly growth at 1.3 percent, beating Treasury’s estimates of 1 percent, said Statistics SA Tuesday.

This is a vast improvement on the dismal 0.3 percent GDP growth in 2016 but remains weak by the country’s historic standards.

“In a time when good news seems hard to come by, the latest GDP results provide some cautious cheer,” Statistics SA said in a statement.

In the third quarter, the economy grew by 2.3 percent quarter on quarter, demonstrating a resilience that suggested it was in better shape than most economists had previously thought.

Expenditure on real GDP increased by 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, while final consumption expenditure by general government increased by 1.3 percent.

Treasury is expecting growth to rise to 1.5 percent in 2018 on political and policy certainty, renewed confidence and rising private fixed investment.

South Africa Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told reporters in Pretoria on Monday that economic growth forecasts would be revised upwards due to improved business and investor confidence.

“Prospects look good for an improvement in growth forecasts,” Nene said.

Growth for 2016 was revised up to 0.6 percent from 0.3 percent.

The changes were based on better access to data sets, said Statistics SA deputy director-general Joe de Beer.

The revisions indicate that South Africa was not plunged into a recession last year. A recession is based on two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

The performance in the fourth quarter of 2016 has been revised to growth of 0.4 percent from a 0.3 percent contraction.

The presidency on Tuesday applauded Statistics SA’s finding.

“While GDP growth remains subject to a broad range of market factors and can fluctuate based on such factors, the fourth quarter improvement should motivate all South Africans,” the Presidency said in a statement.



South Africa ANC withdraws motion on nationalization of central bank

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament announced Tuesday to have withdrawn its motion “on full public ownership on the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) in line with international practice.”

The motion to nationalize the privately owned central bank had been scheduled for debate Tuesday afternoon.

The ANC’s parliamentary caucus did not give reasons for the withdrawal. A call to the Office of the ANC Chief Whip went unanswered.

The ANC proposed the central bank be nationalized at its 54th national conference last December. The proposal would see the government owning 100 percent of the bank’s shares instead of the current arrangement where the shares were held by a number of private shareholders.

The change in its policy towards the SARB is seen as the ANC’s move to win back investors’ confidence after Cyril Ramaphosa took over Zuma as the ANC president and the president of the state.

However, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) voiced concern over the move, calling the decision “unmandated.”

“The reasons behind the withdrawal of the motion are flimsy and not politically convincing,” the ANCYL said.

The withdrawal suggests that some of the leading figures in the ANC remain “captured,” and abuse their positions of power to advance the interests of white monopoly capital, ANCYL national spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said.

“As the ANCYL we reiterate our call for the nationalization of the SARB, including banks and other monopoly industries to be in the hands of the people under the custodianship of our democratic state,” he said.

The SARB, meanwhile, insisted that changing the ownership structure of the bank could raise the level of risk and uncertainty for the country in both the financial and economic policy sense.

Unlike most central banks in the world, the SARB has been privately owned since it was established in 1921, but its shareholders have no control over monetary policy, financial stability policy or banking regulation.

As a result, the bank has been criticized for failing to help boost the economy and create jobs.


South African government moves to address critical skills shortage

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on Tuesday said they introduced the critical skills in the country’s technical vocational education and training centres to address the deficiency.

The DHET said this in a statement on Tuesday. The government have launched 13 occupational trades in high demand in the country’s 26 technical vocational education and training centers. The critical skills in demand include electricians, millwright, boilermakers, plumbers, diesel mechanics, fitter and turner, pipe fitters and welders, riggers and mechanical fitters.

“The colleges have been selected through a vigorous process undertaken by teams of education and industry experts to identify trades that are in demand for the infrastructure programs as well as for other strategic programs such as the ocean economy program,” said part of the statement.

“The selected colleges will be provided with resources to upgrade workshops and equipment to deliver effectively on these much needed skills,” the statement said.

The government stated that the move is an attempt to address the skills shortage, unemployment and poverty. The colleges will prepare students for the workplace or self-employment through the maintenance of close working relationships with employers in their areas of study, said the government.


Trust in public institutions declines in South Africa: surve

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- Trust in South Africa’s public institutions including the government and media industry has declined last year, according to a leading survey released on Tuesday.

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer since 2001, showed overall trust in four institutions it measures—the government, media, business and non-governmental organizations—said that trust from the general population in South Africa in the government saw a slight drop of one percentage point to 14 percent in 2017.

Public trust in media fell 4 points to 35 percent, and in business, it declined 3 points to 53 percent. The figure went down from 58 percent to 50 percent in non-governmental organizations.

According to the survey, corruption allegations against the former South African President Jacob Zuma have contributed to negative public opinion of the government.

It also stated that 69 percent of South Africans are worried about fake news being used as a weapon.



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