JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s economic growth is unlikely to reach the treasury’s target of 1.5% in 2019 because conditions have changed and the country is facing increasing headwinds, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said on Friday.
This week ratings agency Moody’s, the last of the top three credit firms to rate South Africa’s debt at investment level, said it had lowered its growth forecast to 0.7% from 1%.
The central bank sees gross domestic product at 0.6% this year.
Both have cited slow economic reforms as the key drag on economic activity, and massive bailouts to state-owned companies, including 59 billion rand ($4.05 billion) to power firm Eskom.
This has limited the government’s scope for stimulus and raised debt while the resultant uncertainty has kept investment subdued.
“The assumptions underlying the forecasts have clearly changed … the actual deficit now is probably much higher,” Mboweni told a banking conference in Johannesburg.
He said that increasing calls for the treasury to bail out state firms was putting pressure on growth and spending.
“We must re-focus our economy on agriculture …but we also have to continue to support Eskom, because without electricity there is no growth,” Mboweni said.
A Reuters poll of economists this week forecast South African economic growth at 0.7% this year, up from 0.6% in the previous forecast. Second quarter growth bounced back 3.1% after a revised contraction of 3.1% in the first quarter.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; editing by Andrew Heavens and Jason Neely)