President Cyril Ramaphosa interacts with delegates and exhibitors as he visits stands at the 2019 Africa’s Travel Indaba. Economists said Ramaphosa's biggest challenge would be to implement far-reaching structural reforms that would boost the economy. Photo: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

JOHANNESBURG – The country’s blue-chip firms yesterday gave President Cyril Ramaphosa’s push for a win in tomorrow's general elections a thumbs-up, despite some economists warning that his win would not alter the country's economic discourse.

FirstRand, Vodacom, Alexander Forbes and Aspen yesterday came out batting for Ramaphosa, charging that he was the man to turn the country’s struggling economy around.

Old Mutual Stable Growth fund manage John Orford said he expected a good election outcome based on an ANC win of around 58 to 60 percent, which means policy stability and improved confidence.

“We’ll be watching carefully in the weeks and months following the election to see how this theme evolves,” Orford said. “Critical signposts will be how effectively Ramaphosa restructures his administration and how he handles the restructuring of Eskom.” 

However, economists said Ramaphosa's biggest challenge would be to implement far-reaching structural reforms that would boost the economy.

Capital Economics' John Ashbourne said the first thing to look out for would be who Ramaphosa appointed to key economic and regulatory roles.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC is all but certain to win this week’s election, but we're sceptical that this will provide impetus to his sluggish reform drive,” Ashbourne said. “The ruling party will, after all, remain sharply divided.”

Rating agency Standard & Poor’s last month said an ANC victory would be good for economic growth.

The reform of cash burning state-owned entities and the rule of law has been high on Ramaphosa’s agenda since he took office.  

Businesses said they expected Ramphosa to continue rooting out rogue elements within the state and continue his plans to break up Eskom into three separate units.

“One particularly difficult challenge for the coming years will be energy policy,” Ashbourne said. “The president's plan to rescue Eskom by splitting the state-owned electricity firm into three is opposed by ANC allied unions and by many officials within the party.”

Most polls have predicted a victory for the ANC. The business community has had a love relationship with Ramaphosa since he took office just over a year ago, bringing to an end Jacob Zuma's nine years in office. 

While many business leaders believed that Ramaphosa was the best man for the job, business confidence has, however, remained muted.

Business sentiment in the first quarter plunged to levels reached during 2009’s global recession on persistent weak demand in the economy.

Peter Attard Montalto, an analyst at Intellidex, said he believes the linkage between the vote result and the post-election reform and political environment is very weak.

BUSINESS REPORT