BER Research Note No 3

The SA tourism industry is an important driver of growth and job creation.Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic effectively brought all tourism to a standstill and is expected to result in massive job and revenue losses. This note unpacks the relative impacts on the sector and its associated activities that we expect will flow from the deep economic shock. The first objective is to give a credible assessment of the direct, indirect and induced impacts of tourism expenditure on the economy under normal circumstances. This allows us to calculate the potential hit to under 2 different scenarios

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The FNB/BER Civil Confidence Index rose for the fourth straight quarter in 2020Q1. However, at 24, the index still signifies that the majority of civil contractors are dissatisfied with prevailing business conditions.

The business activity index of the Absa PMI survey (illustrated in the graph) crashed to an all-time low of a mere 5.1 index points in April. The decline means that manufacturing output came to a near standstill during the nationwide lockdown, with almost all respondents reporting a decline in activity compared to the previous month. Indeed, many respondents indicated that zero production took place during the lockdown.

The RMB/BER BCI slumped by eight points to 18 in the first quarter of 2020 - a 21-year low. Persistent demand weakness, load shedding, bailouts of struggling SOE’s, the deterioration in the government’s finances and the spreading of the coronavirus around the globe all played a role. January’s 25 basis point interest rate cut was a small positive, but not enough to compensate for the negative developments. Since the survey was completed in early March, things have gone from bad to worse on the global front. The RMB/BER BCI will in all likelihood continue to trend lower in the period ahead, with obvious negative consequences for private sector fixed investment.

The FNB/BER Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) declined by a further 2 points. The time-to-buy sub-index plunged to a 33-year low. High-income earners’ confidence dropped to a 20-year low. The low confidence of the high-income group does not bode well for retail sales in general and durables goods in particular. Non-durable goods will continue to benefit from the stable confidence of low- and middle-income earners.