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2020 OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2020

image of OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak is worsening an already fragile economic outlook. Since 2013, growth has been modest and unemployment has been rising. Policy uncertainty has been the main driver of low confidence and subdued investment. Following a sharp fiscal deterioration in recent years, the crisis also heightened debt sustainability challenges. Curbing the public sector wage bill, restructuring SOEs and containing spending growth in higher education are urgently needed to improve spending efficiency and restore fiscal sustainability. Supporting the economic recovery in the short-run while accelerating structural reforms to increase potential growth is key. In the medium term, developing tourism, boosting transport infrastructure investments, promoting renewable energies and strengthening the social protection system can contribute to more sustainable and inclusive growth.

SPECIAL FEATURE: SOCIAL PROTECTION AND TOURISM

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Leveraging tourism development for sustainable and inclusive growth

South Africa has turned towards tourism development to jump-start its weak economy. As tourism is a labour intensive sector that can also bring foreign currency into the country, the sector was identified as priority area by the South African government. Indeed, a doubling in international tourist arrivals from 1995 to 2017 was accompanied by a tripling of employment directly related to tourism. Despite South Africa’s rich and diverse natural and cultural assets, tourism development has been challenged by the country’s geographic location and perceived safety and security issues. As the country is a long-haul destination for many large source markets, good accessibility and international openness is key to expand international tourism, but current visa regulations put an administrative burden on potential tourists. While increasing tourist arrivals are necessary for tourism development, tourism growth has to be well planned and managed to be sustainable. Although the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting containment measures have hit the economy and in particular tourism, the sector has good potential to support the South African economy and contribute to employment growth post-COVID-19. Tourism provides job opportunities for different skills and experience levels allowing for greater social integration. For tourism development to translate into inclusive growth, the tourism industry needs to be integrated into the local economy and the benefits of tourism must spread geographically to also create economic opportunities in less travelled and less prosperous regions.

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