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The escalating cost of doing business is the biggest concern currently facing the private sector in South Africa, according to the findings of the 2013 annual survey of the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), released yesterday.

As a result, business expects a muted outlook this year, but with better expectations than the past year.

The survey polled 64 businesses with more than 24 000 employees in total.

Sacci chief executive Neren Rau said the escalating cost of doing business, including electricity costs and municipal levies, was the biggest concern of 42 percent of respondents, followed by the related issue of regulatory compliance costs, or the time and resources associated with complying with regulations, at 16 percent.

He said the third-biggest concern was access to finance and its cost (13 percent), followed by inadequate or failing infrastructure (8 percent), and crime and uncertainty over changes to law (both 6 percent).

Rau said: “The majority of businesses saw no change in their labour force in 2013 and do not plan to expand it this year. Encouragingly, there are more businesses that plan to expand their employment in 2014 (25 percent) than those who will cut staff (21 percent).”

He said 91 percent of businesses did not experience a strike last year and 87 percent did not expect one this year. – Wiseman Khuzwayo