SA set to ‘break even’ on World Cup

The world Cup will add R38 billion to South Africa’s economy this year – more or less the amount spent by South Africa to host the tournament.

Addressing a press conference in Johannesburg on the economic benefits of the tournament, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the massive infrastructural improvements undertaken for the World Cup would benefit the country for generations to come.

Government has spent R33.7 billion on hosting the tournament, including R11.7 billion on 10 world cup stadiums, five of which were built from scratch, and R11.2 billion to boost the rail network.

A further R1.3 billion was spent on securing the event and R1.5 billion on telecommunications and new broadcast technology, treasury figures showed.

Those figures do not include spending by host cities and provinces, which bring the overall bill closer to R40 billion.

Gordhan conceded: “There’s definitely a few billion more. There could be 3 to 5 billion more than the R33 billion we’ve indicated to you.”

The minister estimated the World Cup had created 130 000 jobs in the construction of stadiums and other facilities, tourism and feeder industries. He did not say how many were permanent jobs.

Spending by hundreds of thousands of World Cup visitors would add 0.4% (R38 billion) to GDP this year, he predicted.

Most of the income from the tournament, however, goes to football’s governing body Fifa, which is on course to gross $3.2 billion (about R24.6 billion) from the World Cup.

Fifa says 75% of that goes back into football development.

Many have questioned the judiciousness of South Africa spending so much to host the World Cup given the challenge it faces in bringing housing, clean water and electricity to millions of its citizens.

Gordhan said the new infrastructure would act as a magnet for investment as well as improve the lives of citizens.

He said: “Once you build a road, it doesn’t disappear the day after the World Cup ends.” The “soft” benefits were equally important, he added.
The World Cup had also forged a sense of unity unseen in the country since the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

And South Africa had earned a reputation “as a country that can deliver”.

Iraj Abedian, chief executive officer of Pan-African Capital Holdings Ltd, which advises potential investors, said the World Cup had buried negativity about South Africa, at home and abroad.

There had been a lot of doubt before the tournament about South Africa’s ability to meet deadlines, maintain order and contain crime, he said.

Three weeks into a trouble-free tournament, he said, “those concerns have been put to rest”. 

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