OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa

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OECD's periodic reviews of South Africa's economy.  Each review examines recent economic developments, policy and prospects, and presents a series of recommendations.
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OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2013

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04 mars 2013
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9789264182325 (PDF) ;9789264182301(imprimé)

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OECD's 2013 Economic Survey of South Africa examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover improving education quality and green growth.

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    This Survey was prepared in the Economics Department by Geoff Barnard and Fabrice Murtin under the supervision of Andreas Wörgötter. The draft has benefited from valuable background research by Yaseen Jhaveri, seconded from the South African National Treasury. Research assistance was provided by Corinne Chanteloup and secretarial assistance by Josiane Gutierrez and Pascal Halim. The Survey also benefited from valuable background research by Nicola Branson and Murray Leibbrandt from SALDRU at the University of Cape Town, and by George Frempong, Dean Janse van Rensburg, Vijay Reddy and Lolita Winnaar from the Human Sciences Research Council.The Economic Survey of South Africa was discussed by the Economic Development and Review Committee on 17 December 2012, with active participation of representatives of the South African government .This Survey is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD.The previous Economic Survey of South Africa was issued in July 2010.Information about the latest as well as previous Surveys and more information about how Surveys are prepared is available at www.oecd.org/eco/surveys.

  • Executive summary

    South Africa is advancing, but failing to fully achieve its considerable potential. Per capita incomes are growing, public services are expanding, health indicators are improving, crime rates are falling and demographic trends are favourable. The public finances are in better shape than those of many OECD countries, the financial system is healthy and core inflation is stable and within the central bank’s target zone. At the same time, an extremely high proportion of the population is out of work, as has been the case for most of the past three decades. Moreover, income inequality remains extremely high, educational outcomes are poor on average and hugely uneven, and frustration is growing with public service delivery failures and corruption. Output growth is sluggish compared to most other middle-income economies. Environmental challenges such as climate change and water scarcity threaten the sustainability of economic growth, while high current account deficits represent a point of macroeconomic vulnerability.

  • Assessment and recommendations

    Despite considerable success on many economic and social policy fronts over the past 19 years, South Africa faces a number of long-standing economic problems that still reflect at least in part the long-lasting and harmful legacy of apartheid. One is a lack of economic dynamism: convergence towards advanced country per capita income levels has been slower than in most other emerging economies (A). The fastest-growing countries tend to have low per capita income, but even taking into account starting levels South Africa’s growth has been relatively slow (B). Above all, employment remains too low and unemployment excessively high, which exacerbates a range of social problems and tensions. One aspect of this central problem is that educational outcomes are poor on average and extremely uneven, which aggravates the excess supply of unskilled labour as well as worsening income inequality. In addition, the prospects for sustained improvements in well-being are compromised by environmental challenges, notably climate change and water stress. As well articulated in the National Development Plan (NDP) published in August 2012, South Africa needs to achieve rapid, inclusive economic growth while at the same time making the transition to a low-carbon economy and managing effectively the country’s scarce water resources. Tackling the key problems effectively will require continued skilful management of macroeconomic policies, as part of the process of providing helpful framework conditions for economic activity, but above all improved implementation of structural policies, with education being a particularly critical area.

  • Improving education quality in South Africa

    South Africa has achieved remarkable progress in educational attainment relative to other emerging countries, but the quality of basic education for a large fraction of the Black African population is still very low. This chapter identifies several hurdles to the upgrading of basic education quality, such as the lack of investment in school infrastructure and learning materials in disadvantaged areas, uneven administrative capacity at the local level, low teacher quality and poor teaching of English among Black Africans. Bold action is recommended to empower schools with more physical resources, more competent school leadership and an accountable teacher workforce. Skill mismatches of supply and demand on the labour market may be further addressed by vocational education reforms and an alleviation of credit constraints at the tertiary level.

  • Economic growth in South Africa: Getting to the right shade of green

    Despite having become increasingly active in the area of green growth policies, and despite having put in place a generally sound environmental policy framework, South Africa needs to improve implementation to meet key environmental challenges. Effective green growth policies should be combined with other structural and macroeconomic policies to reconcile rapid economic growth with environmental sustainability. A key element of such a policy mix is improving price-setting in the key areas of greenhouse gas emissions and water. The South African economy is very carbon-intensive, in part because of implicit subsidies to coal and electricity, while there is as yet no economy-wide carbon price to internalise environmental externalities. More generally, not all instruments to achieve the government’s commitments on emissions abatement are in place, and progress on implementation of the instruments that have been identified has been slow. The monitoring of progress and the verification of coherence between different initiatives should be improved. South Africa is already a water-scarce country, and water stress will worsen with population growth and climate change. The existing policy framework is broadly consistent with best international practice, but implementation has lagged. In general, charges for water need to rise to be increase cost recovery and price scarcity, while the allocation of licenses should be speeded up, municipal management strengthened and illegal water use curtailed.

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