Recession risk still a reality - expert

Cape Town - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's 2016 Budget has failed to address the two key fundamentals that the rand seems to be oversold and undervalued, according to Edmond Shoko of Acca, an international body for professional accountants.

This is because the budget has not brought forward adequate austerity measures, which would be reflective of a significant policy change on the part of government, according to Shoko.

READ: Budget in a nutshell

"In the absence of such policy change, the combination of muted global growth, low business level confidence, drought and persistently low resource prices will result in South Africa continuing to lose its attraction as a destination for capital," he added.

"Our economy is stalling and the risk of a recession is still a reality."

For Shoko, the most urgent economic question has been - and possibly still is - whether SA's sovereign debt is going to be downgraded to junk status.

READ: Gordhan didn't do enough to avert junk rating - DA

In his view, the 2016 Budget is factually a "very reactional statement", which is not indicative of major economic policy changes by the government.

"It has been well crafted to say the right words, terms and figures to avoid the downgrading of our sovereign debt to junk status. It is indeed a missed opportunity because of its short-termism, hollow but clever statements, and primarily its speculative nature," said Shoko.

On the other hand, in Shoko's view the budget is shows a positive approach in the realisation that tax is not the only solution to raising additional revenue for the country.

Jobs and levies

Some key parts of the solution in his budget include expenditure cuts of about R8bn per year over three years on average, curbing the size of the civil service (although there is no clear plan on how this is going to be achieved), having a growing economy at 1.8% per year on average over three years and creating jobs.

"When it came to the numbers, the only accounted for increase in revenue of R18bn is underpinned on an increase and introduction in levies. Levies in essence are an indirect tax as they still result in the increase in the cost of living for everyone," said Shoko.

READ: Gordhan missed fuel levy chance to kill e-tolls - Outa

Gordhan has focused on reining in government spend and amassing income from higher income earners. He made it clear that SA “cannot spend money we do not have".

Adrian Saville, chief strategist of Citadel, said it is significant that Gordhan did not refer to a “developmental state” – a situation in which the government plays a lead role in driving economic growth. Rather, Gordhan reinforced the message of the National Development Plan of a strong mixed economy with the public sector complementing the private sector.

This focus is important, as it brings stability to policy and will encourage clarity and visibility, the necessary ingredients for an investment-friendly environment.

“What will be critical, however, is to ensure the structural reforms necessary for economic growth are implemented. With the asset base of state-owned entities over R1trn, the government sits on the largest balance sheet in the country but it is being inefficiently managed and we will need extensive financial re-engineering and efficiency to turn it around,” said Saville.

The rand weakened by over 2.5% on Wednesday as Moody's downgraded Brazil to junk status in the midst of Gordhan's Budget Speech.

Moody's believes that Brazil will average negative growth for the next three years, said TreasuryOne.

Saville reckons the rand rout is in part a return to more normal levels, given that the currency had been one of the strongest emerging market currencies in the last three weeks.

* Visit our special issue on Pravin Gordhan's 2016 Budget Speech.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot