World Cup benefits some way off

Johannesburg - It will take three to five years to see the economic benefits of the World Cup, a Human Sciences Research Council academic said on Tuesday.

It was however too early to tell how great these benefits would be, Dr Udesh Pillay, head of research on service delivery at the HSRC, told Sapa in a telephonic interview.

However, he added that the economic benefits had been overstated.

"When compared to the economic benefits that government projected three to four years ago, figures have definitely been overstated."

However, Pillay, who has edited a book about the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, said the tournament's legacy in social terms provided a very good foundation for SA to address its development challenges as a nation "in a more, rather than less, unified way".

South Africa had entered the World Cup as a divided and fractured nation, evident in service delivery protests, high unemployment and crime.

"The FIFA World Cup was a rallying point for us to come together and be proud."

However, Pillay warned that politicians should make sure this unique moment in the country's history was not lost due to political squabbling and ideological differences.

He noted that President Jacob Zuma had said he would use the tournament to accelerate service delivery.

"There is a feel-good factor in the country now ... there is pride, nation building and that gives SA a good basis to address challenges like service delivery.

"There is a goodwill factor here, and we must use this as a springboard when it comes to service delivery - no momentum must be lost."

Xenophobic attacks

Pillay said he had failed to understand press reports that equated the end of the World Cup with an outbreak of xenophobia. However, he said lack of service delivery did result in xenophobic attacks if foreigners coexisted with locals and had access to livelihoods locals did not.

Foreigners may have been "more entrepreneurial" before and during the event by selling World Cup-related merchandise.

"The local people may think that they've missed an opportunity and maybe retribution may take place."

Turning to job creation, he said figures indicated the soccer spectacle had created 120 000 employment opportunities.

"Most of these jobs were in construction and were short-term and workers were eventually retrenched ... but in the context of our employment challenges, the creation of 120 000 jobs is not insignificant."

However, there had been "big and bold" expectations a few years ago that the tournament would help alleviate employment, Pillay said.

"Once again, economic benefits were overstated."

He put the tournament's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) at between 0.2% and 0.4%.

"This seems to be the emerging consensus."

Crime down

However, economists had predicted a contribution to GDP of over 3% four years ago.

Pillay estimated that 250 000 to 300 000 people had entered the country to attend the World Cup.

"Foreign arrivals in terms of tourism probably contributed R12bn at an average spend of R12 000."

He acknowledged that not everyone had had a profitable World Cup.

"The event was governed by FIFA regulations... SA had to enter into all sorts of agreements and those small-scale entrepreneurs who expected to participate in the mainstream economy were marginalised."

This, he said, included not only food vendors, but bed and breakfast establishments too.

"Some didn't cash in as expected and some are feeling terrible about it."

Pillay said crime had definitely decreased during the tournament.

"We had 45 000 additional police officers, and if we can make crime go down for the World Cup, then we can at least reach some midpoint where we can continue to sustain this high level of security."

  - Sapa

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