Gill Marcus: Recession unlikely, but we must rebuild confidence in economy

2014-06-10 14:54

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SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus warned that export figures will be affected if the almost five-month-old strike in the platinum mining sector continues.

Marcus said today that the strike had already negatively affected economic growth, but had not yet shown an effect on export data because mining houses had significant platinum inventories.

“However, these inventories are being depleted and the longer the strike continues, the sooner the adverse effects on exports will be felt,” she told a business breakfast in Joburg.

Marcus said she believed a recession was unlikely but urged all sectors, including labour, to work together to rebuild confidence in the economy and boost growth from a “low positive number”.

“It behoves all of us – government, business and labour – to rebuild the confidence and trust that is an imperative to change the negative trajectory that the economy is presently on.”

She reiterated that the main downside risks to the economy were the strike and electricity supply constraints, and pointed out that the stoppage accounted for 19 percentage points of the total mining sector contraction of 25% in the first quarter.

“Even if a settlement were achieved today and workers returned to work soon thereafter, it would take weeks for normal operations to resume. It is also possible that a number of shafts will never reopen,” Marcus said.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) downed tools at Anglo American Platinum, Lonmin and Impala Platinum on January 23, demanding a basic monthly salary of R12 500.

They have so far rejected the companies’ offer that would bring their cash remuneration to R12 500 by July 2017.

Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi set up an inter-governmental task team soon after his appointment in May to assist platinum producers and Amcu resolve the impasse.

Ramatlhodi today denied that he had “abandoned” the wage negotiations.

“I strongly believe we’ve done enough work ... for the parties to be able to move forward [independently],” he told reporters in Pretoria.

“It is a misperception that I am abandoning the talks.”

On Saturday, Ramatlhodi said he would pull out of the talks if no agreement was reached by yesterday.

Amplats, Lonmin and Impala said they would look at other options.

So far, the industry has lost R21.8 billion in earnings, while employees have forfeited wages of about R9.7 billion, according to a website set up by the companies.

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