STUART THEOBALD: Why are things in SA not a lot worse?

Why are things in SA not a lot worse? The doom and gloom are palpable across the media and when talking to both business and government counterparts. Yet last week, trading updates from banks indicated record earnings.

Earlier this month, GDP figures showed the economy is now bigger than it was pre-Covid, despite the first quarter having experienced record load-shedding. Trade statistics show we are exporting and importing more than ever, with exports dominating over the past three years. These are not the signs of a country imploding, though the rhetoric around it would leave you expecting it to be.

Of course, there is lots to be angry about. Load-shedding could have been completely avoided had we done what everyone knew was needed, and we are doing now, back in the early 2000s, in opening up the electricity system to private generators who can compete. Our mining sector, the foundation of our economy, is crumbling under the weight of regulatory confusion and incompetence.

Levels of unemployment are completely unacceptable and pose a serious risk of social instability. And more proximate issues tend to dominate thinking: our ambiguous stance on Russia, which risks our trading relationships with the markets that consume the most value-added goods and services we produce; the dysfunction in local government that means potholed roads and increasingly erratic water supply. These are serious issues and resolving them must not be belittled. But we must also understand that the rump of the economy manages to keep ticking over despite them. In that lies opportunity: there is a critical mass of economic activity that enables us to solve problems if we harness it appropriately.