Trade deficit down

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) on Wednesday revised the country’s trade deficit for 2008 sharply lower after excluding gold temporarily imported for refining purposes.

Sars said in a statement the shortfall for the year stood at R64,5-billion, down from the R88,05-billion gap published last week.

The change will relieve some pressure on an ailing current account, which has weighed heavily on the rand, helping it weaken almost 30% against the dollar last year.

However, Sars said the revision would not impact on the previously published current account data for the third quarter of 2008, when the deficit on the account stood at 7,9% of GDP.

“The revised import totals indicate a positive outlook for the South African economy,” Sars said.

“Relative to exports, South Africa imported less from the rest of the world over the past year than was initially estimated.”

The 2008 trade shortfall was lower than the R69,9-billion for 2007.

Sars said it had agreed with the Reserve Bank that the value of goods temporarily imported or exported without a change in ownership should no longer be included in the trade statistics.

All monthly data from July 2008 was revised to remove those gold imports, which came to a cumulative R23,5-billion.

The deficit for December was reduced to R1,64-billion compared to the published R9,05-billion shortfall, while November’s R12,1-billion deficit falls to R6,9-billion.

The statement follows a report in the Business Day on Monday quoting research by economists at Tariff & Trade Intelligence and IHS Global Insight that the deficit was overstated due to the incorrect treatment of gold imports.

Total imports for last year were revised to R727,6-billion from R751,14-billion, while exports remained at R663,1-billion.

The revised deficit for the third and fourth quarters were R19,3-billion and R14,7-billion respectively, down from the R26,6-billion and R30,9-billion.—Reuters

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