South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba presented the 2017 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in Parliament on Wednesday. PHOTO: ANA PHOTO

PARLIAMENT - South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday said government was planning to upgrade the country's key ports of entry in a bid to improve regional trade and curb slow economic growth.

Gigaba said that there were many opportunities across the Sub-Saharan African region that South African companies could capitalise on as the region's growth outlook had been renewed and was now expected to recover to 2.6 percent this year, and 3.8 percent in 2018.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also expects global growth to average 3.6 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2018 as a result of recovery in demand and trade in Europe and Asia.

Gigaba said for South Africa to strengthen its medium and long-term growth prospects, the country needed to position itself to take advantage of the improved regional and global outlook.

"Growth outcomes vary across the region, but there are many opportunities. A key opportunity in this regard is to improve regional trade by upgrading key ports of entry, especially Beitbridge (bordering Zimbabwe), which is the gateway to the North-South corridor," Gigaba said.

"The Department of Home Affairs is working on revamping this and other ports of entry through public-private partnership, which will improve the movement of travellers and trade facilitation."

Gigaba was delivering the 2017 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in Parliament to set out the fiscal policy objectives and government's spending priorities over the next three-year expenditure period.

South Africa slashed its projected gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for 2017 by almost half, from 1.3 percent to 0.7 percent, as a result of continued decline in business and consumer confidence that has gathered pace since 2014.

Business and consumer confidence are currently at historic lows with direct consequences for investment, job creation and household spending.

Gigaba said growth was subsequently expected to recover slowly, reaching 1.9 percent in 2020.

He said that the development of the Sub-Saharan African region would depend on how South Africa leveraged its global relations and its ability to mobilise both domestic and international resources.

"Regional development requires capacity building in areas of capital markets, tax collection, combating illicit financial flows, infrastructure financing and development and many others," Gigaba said.

"There is no magic bullet to do this; much depends on the policy choices made and the effectiveness of their implementation."

- African News Agency (ANA)