- Economic uncertainty coupled with a possibility of a third wave of Covid-19 infections contributed to muted growth in the Business Confidence Index (BCI)
- In March it was at 94.0, marginally down from 94.3 in February and 94.5 in January 2021
- According to the chamber, the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations would be critical in "re-igniting the economy"
Continued economic uncertainty coupled with a possibility of a third wave of Covid-19 infections contributed to muted growth in the Business Confidence Index (BCI) during the month of March, according to data by the SA Chamber of Commerce (SACC) released on Wednesday.
Its BCI in March was at 94.0, marginally down from 94.3 in February and 94.5 in January 2021, as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions continued to wreak havoc on business operations and economic activity.
The BCI averaged 94.3 in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 91.6 of the first quarter 2020, the SACC said, highlighting that business climate remained constricted due to continuing economic uncertainty and the speculation of a third surge in coronavirus infections.
The lockdown effects were particularly harsh on physical economic activity and output, and with a notable increase in unemployment which currently stands at 32.5%, and forced a large number of small, medium and macro-sized businesses out of business.
"The recent month-on-month decline of 0.3 in March 2021 to 94.0 reflects the current mood of uncertainty as reflected in the economy battling to gather upward momentum."
For the six months ending March 2021, the BCI average improved by 13.2 index points on the same average assessment of the preceding six months.
The positive month-on-month contributions to the BCI in March 2021 were attributed to the increased number of new vehicle sales and higher volume of merchandise imports followed by the lower levels of inflation.
According to the chamber, the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccinations would be critical in "re-igniting the economy", and help to refocus the private sector, local and foreign investors into investing in the economy.
"The impact of vaccinations could create space for attending to inherent shortcomings in economic policy and promotion of longer-term investor confidence which is an imperative for economic growth and business confidence."
Only the country's healthcare workers are currently receiving Covid-19 jabs, and the process has slow and mired by delays.