Filomena Scalise

Johannesburg - The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (Sacci) 2013 annual survey shows a muted outlook for the year, it said on Tuesday.

However, there were better expectations, Sacci chief executive Neren Rau said in a statement.

“The escalating cost of doing business (including electricity costs and municipal levies) is currently the biggest concern of business (42 percent), followed by the related concept of regulatory compliance cost (time and resources associated with complying with regulations) at 16 percent.

“The third biggest concern is the cost or access to finance (13 percent), followed by inadequate or failing infrastructure (eight percent), uncertainty over changes to law and crime (both at six percent).”

Labour strife and public service delivery were at the bottom of business concerns at four percent each, Rau said.

The survey polled 64 businesses employing at least 24,000 people in total.

Rau said business had a mostly negative experience over the past year and was not overly optimistic for 2014.

The general experience for last year was mostly “worse”, while the expectation for this year was mostly “no real change”.

The majority of business saw no change in its labour force last year and did not plan on expanding this year, he said.

There were more businesses planning to expand their employment in 2014 (25 percent) than those who said they would cut staff (21 percent).

On industrial action, the majority of business, 91 percent, did not experience a strike in 2013, and 87 percent did not expect one this year, said Rau.

However, more firms (14 percent) expected a strike this year compared to those which had experienced it last year (nine percent).

“The overall trend is that businesses do not expect significant improvement in the business environment in 2014, but are nonetheless more optimistic for the coming year,” he said.

“The high cost of doing business, regulatory burdens and high financing costs will require strong advocacy efforts by Sacci to make the business environment more conducive to economic growth and job creation.” - Sapa