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Gigaba enters fray over Mining Charter

Business Report
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba last week acknowledged that the new Mining Charter had triggered a storm and said he hoped it would not weaken the recession-hit economy further.

Gigaba was speaking about the state of the economy at a media briefing in Pretoria, saying South Africa would not realise the 2017 growth projection of 1.3percent due to a series of negative developments,

He called on his mineral resources counterpart Mosebenzi Zwane to meet with the sector as a matter of urgency and said the National Treasury was ready to come to the table too.

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“The finalisation of policy in mining is critical to unlock investment,” he told reporters in Pretoria on steps to shore up the economy.

“The release of the Mining Charter is a welcome step, but we note that there is already a reaction in the markets There are a number of actions and concerns out there. We express the wish of the Treasury that the minister will engage with those sectors as a matter of urgency to ensure that we do not have consequences that are going to weaken the economy further,” Gigaba said.

“The Treasury is prepared to participate in those sectors. We are interested parties in this regard and we are ready to engage with all sectors to ensure we can find one another.”

The new charter raises the required black ownership of companies who seek to acquire new mining rights to 30percent, with voting rights.

Gigaba said in his latest update on South Africa’s economic situation that the low forecast for growth continued the trend of low growth over recent few years, undermining the country’s progress in significantly reducing inequality, unemployment and poverty.

This fundamentally disadvantaged a large portion of the population and was the cause of social instability, he added.

“It therefore requires all social partners to reflect on our progress in bringing about inclusive growth and economic transformation, and to do all that we can and more from our respective positions,” the minister said.

Gigaba cited several factors that hamper the country’s growth. These include the downgrade of the country’s credit ratings to junk status by S&P Global and Fitch in April, and a decision by Moody’s this month to downgrade South Africa’s long-term foreign and local currency debt ratings to Baa3, with a negative outlook.

All three rating agencies have raised similar concerns over the slow pace of growth-enhancing reforms; growing contingent liabilities amid poor governance at key state-owned enterprises; and political risks, among other issues.

Also, South Africa’s GDP contracted 0.7percent in the first quarter of this year, following a contraction of 0.3percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“This trend unfortunately implies that our economy has entered into a recession,” Gigaba said.

“Our sovereign credit rating has huge macroeconomic impact and affects government, business and ordinary South Africans alike. We are committed to restoring it to a favourable investment-grade rating with a positive outlook as quickly as possible,” he said.

The government has been deeply engaged with the issue of the recession, analysing its impact on the growth target and considering an appropriate response, according to Gigaba.

“We have heard the call from business and investors that providing policy certainty and stabilising and revitalising state-owned companies are among the most important short-term steps we can take to restore confidence,” he said.

Inclusive growth and economic transformation were the top priorities of the government, and were mutually reinforcing, Gigaba added.

BUSINESS REPORT

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