Trade union Solidarity said that while 2008 would end on a sombre note, there is reason for optimism as it expects that many things will start going right for the country in 2009.
Solidarity’s deputy general secretary, Dirk Hermann, said that 2008 was a year of uncertainty, which saw a worsening of the country’s economy, deterioration of infrastructure, higher inflation and consequent higher interest rates, and an increase in the emigration of highly qualified South Africans.
“We expect most of these trends to turn around in 2009 and there is reason for optimism. Although things will not just improve right away, the country should end 2009 on a much higher note than in 2008,” he said.
Releasing a list of positives South Africans can expect in the new year, the union said that with the upward cycle of interest rates having been broken, it expected that the total cut in rates in 2009 would be between 300 and 400 basis points.
It said that with input costs for agricultural activities having come down, food prices will eventually drop and that owing to the lower oil price, fuel prices will drop, with a further decrease of at least 40 cents.
Other reasons for optimism include the new ministers of health and safety and security providing a breath of fresh air in their respective departments; a strengthening of democracy with the general election in 2009; and improvements in infrastructure (particularly transport) and in telecommunications costs.
Solidarity said that together with the National Union of Mineworkers, the Chamber of Mining, the South African Mining Development Association and the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs, it was working in a task team to ward off planned retrenchments in the mining sector and managing the effects of job losses.
“Solidarity aims to reduce the estimated number of people destined for unemployment by between 40% and 60%, and is optimistic about achieving this early in 2009,” it said.
The union said it expects that South Africans would be able to start breathing again by at least the second half of 2009.
“We believe that employment will then start increasing and, with the other prospects discussed above, the country should be in an economic upswing by the end of 2009.
“However, we still call on South Africans to save more money and not to incur any unnecessary debt,” said Hermann. — I-Net Bridge