IF THERE's one statement on which the ruling party and its new leadership should have held back when they took over the reins, it is the promise to create 5-million jobs by 2020. To achieve or get close to that, SA's economic growth will have to push above 7% a year.
You have to question the powers of foresight of whoever President Jacob Zuma's advisers were in the African National Congress's (ANC's) national executive committee, when he made the promise. (As Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is not among them, we can perhaps forgive him.)
Defenders of those leading at Luthuli House and the Union Buildings will be quick to point out, quite right ly, that the global economy has deteriorated significantly in the three years that Zuma has led both the party and state.
But the job growth ambitions had already factored in a slowing global economy. By embarking on an ambitious plan to build roads, rail, power stations and dams, the idea was that the economy would shield itself from the European-led economic slowdown.
We are past the middle of the year and people are starting to ask when the multibillion-rand spend is going to kick into high gear.
Construction stocks are faltering and companies related to the sector, such as ArcelorMittal SA, which produces the bulk of the country's steel, are trading at levels last seen in 2005.
While everyone ponders what will happen to the president and his team come December in Mangaung, I'm wondering when this supposed spend is going to come into the global economy.
S A's economic growth has the Reserve Bank so flustered that in the face of most forecasts it cut rates last Thursday. In September, if inflation isn't as much of a problem and slow growth is, the central bank may cut them again.
Yesterday, the central bank said in its annual report that growth was too slow to make "strong inroads" in unemployment.
Amid a slowing economy, we are having this political stalemate over the user-pays principle with regard to delivery of much-needed infrastructure development between the ANC and its alliance partners. It holds back much-needed spend in the local economy.
Recent ANC and South African Communist Party policy conferences offered no further insight into how deadlocks in the e-tolling saga should be settled.
In a slowing global economy, which some are forecasting will last for close on a decade, it's on such matters that we need leadership, no matter who takes up those positions in the ANC.
IN THE short term, the Reserve Bank's decision to cut rates has had a negative effect on South African banks. But in the medium to longer term, it should prove beneficial.
Here's the theory. A lower repo rate cuts into interest income earned by the big four banks, but in time they should benefit from lower bad debts and a rise in activity.
However, the theory will be put to the test this year, in light of the poor economic conditions. If the global economy doesn't take a turn for the better, with the US and Chinese economies healthier this quarter, conditions won't help offset the loss of interest income.
It could prove all the more worrying for Absa, the country's biggest retail lender, which has already warned of lower earnings.
IT's never been too far away from the market consciousness, but there are some weeks when whatever is going wrong in Europe doesn't really matter. Last week was such a week, with attention on the belief in, or rather hope for, more liquidity being pumped into the global economy.
On that hope, markets have rallied over the past six weeks on expectation that the big guns of the US Federal Reserve will be used to make money even cheaper. The bank didn't live up to the expectations last week.
And like clockwork, markets renewed their focus on Europe's sovereign debt problems, and in particular on the Greek and Spanish problems.
This, I am afraid, is how this year's story will be played out. A roller-coaster ride that's to be ridden until economic growth gets some traction in the world's leading economies, namely the US, Europe and China.
In the run-up to any policy statement by either the US Fed or the European Central Bank, markets are going to rally.
In the aftermath, they will either continue rising or retract those gains depending on whatever decision is made.
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