South African Economy: No Easy Life Ahead

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-1-104-116

P. Mozias, National Research University Higher School of Economics, 13, Il'inka Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation (

Abstract. South African rand depreciated in 2013–2014 under the influence of a number of factors. Internationally, its weakness was associated with the capital outflow from all emerging markets as a result of QE’s tapering in the US. Domestically, rand plummeted because of the deterioration of the macroeconomic stance of South Africa itself: economic growth stalled and current account deficit widened again. Consumer spending was restrained with the high household indebtedness, investment climate worsened with the wave of bloody strikes, and net export was still prone to J-curve effect despite the degree of the devaluation happened. But, in its turn, those problems are a mere reflection of the deep institutional misbalances inherent to the very model of the national economy. Saving rate is too low in South Africa. This leads not only to an insufficient investment, but also to trade deficits and overdependence on speculative capital inflows. Extremely high unemployment means that the country’s economic potential is substantially underutilized. Joblessness is generated, first and foremost, by the dualistic structure of the national entrepreneurship. Basic wages are being formed by way of a bargaining between big public and semi state companies, on the one hand, and trade unions associated with the ruling party, on the other. Such a system is biased towards protection of vested interests of those who earn money in capital-intensive industries. At the same time, these rates of wages are prohibitively high for a small business; so far private companies tend to avoid job creation. A new impulse to economic development is likely to emerge only through the government’s efforts to mitigate disproportions and to pursue an active industrial policy. National Development Plan adopted in 2012 is a practical step in that direction. But the growth of public investment is constrained by a necessity of fiscal austerity; as a result, the budget deficit remained too large in recent years. South African Reserve Bank will have to choose between a stimulation of economic growth with low interest rates, on the one hand, and a support of rand by tightening of monetary policy, on the other. This dilemma will greatly influence prices of securities and yields at South African financial markets.

Keywords: South Africa, emerging markets, devaluation, current account deficit, saving, unemployment, Gini coefficient, industrial policy, social policy, investment

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For citation:
Mozias P. South African Economy: No Easy Life Ahead. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 1, pp. 104-116.

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