/ 4 July 2008

Warning sounded as business confidence dips again

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (Sacci) business confidence index (BCI) declined further to 92,6 in June from 93 in May and 93,4 in April, the group said on Friday.

Sacci said that the only positive contributions to the index in June were from manufacturing and building plans passed. Nine sub-indices had a negative impact, while two did not affect the index’s movement.

Since a record level of 103,5 was registered in December 2006, the BCI has declined by 10,9 index points to current levels — about 10 points above the BCI for the period 2001 up to the middle of 2003 when it remained relatively flat.

The average for the Sacci BCI in the first half of 2008 is 93,4, compared with the average of 100,5 in the first half of 2007.

Given the intensity of the adjustments and adverse prevailing economic conditions, Sacci said it believes that business confidence will remain under pressure over the medium term.

The political turmoil in Zimbabwe and the poor response it has elicited from certain African quarters has led to negative sentiment towards Southern Africa. This accordingly weighs negatively on business confidence in South Africa, Sacci said.

The global economic slowdown, which in some countries and for certain kinds of economic activity has been described in recessionary terms, creates a sentiment that bears upon the already tough local economic conditions.

“The prevailing short-term economic and financial disequilibrium receives much attention, but Sacci is concerned that the required policy tightening will bring considerable distress over the medium term, especially to small and medium-sized businesses.

“There has been an improvement on the monetary balancing act, but other adjustments that have taken place, together with the serious imbalance reflected by the current-account deficit that stands at 7,7% of GDP, pose risk factors,” it said.

Sacci concluded that South Africa’s most urgent economic corrections are of a short-term, cyclical nature and have financial dimensions that are having an immediate, detrimental effect on real macroeconomic equilibrium.

The political turmoil and uncertainty affecting Southern Africa need an urgent response before the effects on business confidence start to affect particularly the small to medium-sized business sector in ways that might not be retractable, it said. — I-Net Bridge