News in South Africa 22nd December:
1. 17 health facilities investigated – many challenges found:
A shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) and staff, poor hygiene and substandard ambulance services were the key challenges highlighted in a public protector investigation into 17 public health facilities.
On Monday, Adv Busi Mkhwebane released a report into investigations into several departments, including the health department.
Her office surveyed 17 public facilities across Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
According to the report, there was insufficient procurement, distribution and provisioning of PPE to ensure that the staff and the Covid-19 patients were adequately protected from the surge of the pandemic.
These issues were also highlighted:
- It was a cause for concern that the PPE was collected at the warehouse and it is procured by the department and not hospital. Hospitals did not have sufficient PPE.
- A lack of staff capacity affects the smooth running of the hospitals as posts are not being filled which has an adverse effect on service delivery.
- Workload for the doctors was too high. Doctors are often expected to work excessive hours as a result of clinical staff shortages.
- Lack of communication between management and staff. High infection rate of employees. Poor relationships between management and labour. Lack of co-operation between staff and unions.
- Linen staff washing the laundry of Covid-19 patients with no gloves. Poor maintenance of laundry machines leads o them breaking regularly. the report said.
2. Quarterly BDI shows improvement in businesses:
Experian South Africa has published its quarterly Business Default Index (BDI) for quarter three (Q3) 2020, which reflects the level of health of businesses in the economy.
As expected, the BDI improved sharply in Q3 rising from its extremely depressed level of -3.728 in Q2, to -1.402 in Q3.
According to Jaco van Jaarsveldt, chief decision analytics officer at Experian Africa, the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on economic activity as a result of the lockdown, played a significant role in bringing about a deterioration in the BDI in previous quarters, but by Q3, far more business activity was being conducted than in Q2.
“During Q2, both international and domestic economies were heavily locked down in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19. This meant that many sectors saw activity declining by between 50% and 100% through the course of April specifically. From May onwards, some of the lockdown restrictions gradually came to be lifted, which benefitted Q3 greatly.
“Domestically, it has been observed that a variety of economic indicators have progressively improved with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, as human behaviour and business conditions gradually aspired to return to normality.
“This was the dominant trend in economic activity and the debt metrics of businesses overall in Q3,” he said.
3. Travel bans on SA over new Covid-19 mutation:
Several countries have imposed travel bans on South Africa after a new, potentially more infectious SARS-CoV-2 mutation was confirmed.
The 501.v2 variant has been identified in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and along the Garden Route. It may have properties that allow it to spread faster than other variants of the coronavirus.
A new, and also possibly more virulent variant has, similarly, been confirmed in the UK by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced tougher lockdown measures for London on Saturday 19 December. Following the announcement, dozens of countries have banned flights from the UK.
These countries have already closed their borders to South African travellers in response to the new variant:
- Saudi Arabia
- The Netherlands
4. Transport industry under attack:
Continuing attacks against transporters in South Africa threaten to derail the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement that was again endorsed by African leaders at the recent African Union Summit. If order is not restored, the consequences could be catastrophic – not only for South Africa, but for the rest of Africa.
Transport is the ultimate enabler of both infrastructure development and trade. It serves many sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, health, agriculture, mining, consumer goods and food. It unlocks value chains and all of the job opportunities that come with these activities.
All economies depend on the movement of goods and people. By connecting areas of economic activity within a country and between African countries, transport increases access to much-needed markets and services. Transport provides the means for emerging markets and developing countries to integrate into the global economy. It is therefore a crucial aspect of the preconditions needed to make AfCFTA a success.
The agreement intends to create a single continental market for goods and services, as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and people in the future.
AfCFTA creates the largest free trade area in the world measured by the number of countries participating. The pact connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at close to R50 trillion.
5. SA ill prepared for economic recovery:
While it’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the global economy, the question remains how well countries are prepared to bounce back. To try and determine an answer to this enormous and difficult question, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has adapted its annual competitiveness report to focus on measures that governments have and should be taking to rebound.
It also measured how well 37 countries have coped with the economic aspects of the crisis, comparing data according to 98 indicators that were then organised into 12 “pillars”. It stands to reason that some countries are doing better than others, especially those with strong safety nets and robust healthcare systems.
In this moment, it is crucial to not only reflect on how best to return to growth, but also, how to build back better economies that improve outcomes for people and the planet,” Schwab said in the introduction to the report, “How Countries are Performing on the Road to Recovery”.
The report has some revealing comparative data. One of the measures is Trust in Government, with high-trust countries unsurprisingly likely to perform better than countries where trust is low.
SA’s performance on this measure is unusual. Of the 37 countries measured, SA is the fourth most corrupt, performing better only than Russia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey. Yet its Trust in Government measure is better than average.
As is well known in SA, human capital development – a grand title for what is essentially education prowess – has gone backwards, and in this SA is in surprising company, joining the UK, the US and, Germany. But the extent of SA’s decline is enormous, sliding propitiously (almost as much as the UK!). The gap between the improvers and the decliners is now yawning, with China, South Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all doing well on this measure.
Economic Transformation is an absolute article of faith of the SA government and has been for almost 30 years. But, by international comparison, SA’s performance on this measure is massively uneven.
SA ranks first, yes first, on the Shift to More Progressive Taxation measure. This measure asks to what extent countries are rethinking how corporations, wealth and labour are taxed, nationally and in an international cooperative framework.
But the country comes stone last on another aspect of this measure: “rethinking labour laws and social protection for the new economy and the new needs of the workforce”.