SACCI welcomes government’s COVID-19 efforts

THE South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) on Friday welcomed government efforts to find the right balance of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and the need to get the economy going again.

In a statement on their Facebook page the chamber said: “We acknowledge the President’s remarks that whilst we are fighting this pandemic, it is important to recognise the devastating effect that this pandemic is having on the SA economy. We are however not alone, as this is a global phenomenon. The USA authorities were reporting a few days ago that the US economy has now lost close to 26.5m jobs due to this pandemic. Business South Africa is also projecting that one million job losses may be lost in South Africa due to the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown. Our economy cannot afford a sustained lockdown.”

The chamber’s comments come following President Ramaphosa’s televised address to the nation on Thursday night in which he said government will implement a risk-adjusted strategy aimed at easing the current lockdown restrictions from 1 May. The decision was taken during a National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting on Thursday.

During this period, he said, the country’s lockdown would be eased over five levels.

As South Africa marked day 29 of the COVID-19 lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, SACCI acknowledged remarks by the President.

The chamber said the economy cannot afford a sustained lockdown.

“South Africa’s problems were compounded by three negative forces that have impacted the economy simultaneously: the technical recession, the COVID-19 lockdown, and the downgrading of the SA sovereign rating to junk status.

“Any one of these factors would have posed a significant challenge for the SA economy, its prospects for recovery, GDP growth, the deficit, unemployment, debt-to-GDP, the balance of payments and the exchange rate. To have all these negative forces coalescing at the same time can only mean our challenges of solving poverty, inequality and joblessness have become much more complex and intractable,” said the chamber.

However, SACCI commended President Ramaphosa’s announcement of a stimulus package.

Earlier this week, government announced a massive social relief and economic support package of R500 billion, which amounts to around 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to mitigate the blow of COVID-19 on the country.

“The efforts of the President in announcing the stimulus package must also be commended. Getting the economy to work in a safe environment will be critical, as this alone should assist South Africa in finding the revenue to repay the massive amount of debt required to support the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” SACCI said.

It called on business to work with the President and Ministers to submit well thought-out plans on how to reopen the particular economic sectors in a measured way, while continuing to mitigate the pandemic.