1. Over 6.1mil South Africans vaccinated:

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that over 6.1 million South African were now fully vaccinated with either the on-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the double dose Pfizer jab.

Over 6.1mil South Africans vaccinated
Image take by: Karolina Grabowska

About 15% of the country’s adults are fully vaccinated compared to about 24% of those 18 years and older who are just partially vaccinated against the coronavirus.

This comes as the national Health Department calls for a faster rate of vaccinations in South Africa to prevent the development of further mutations.

The national Health Department is aiming to vaccinate 70% of the country’s 39 million adults to protect the population against future waves of COVID-19.

In the past 24 hours, over 253,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in boosting the country’s total vaccinations to more than 12,841,000.

The country has seen an increased demand for vaccines over the past two weeks after government’s vaccination programme opened to all people 18 years and older last month.

This saw provinces reaching new daily vaccination records.

The current rate of vaccination is ~280,000 jabs on weekdays, slowing to around ~25,000 on weekends. If these rates continue, ~23 million more people will be able to receive shots before Christmas.

2. Assistance for looted small businesses:

The Department of Small Business Development has introduced various ways in which uninsured small businesses affected by the looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng can get support.

Here is how entrepreneurs can apply for assistance:

  • Business Recovery Support Programme

    The Business Recovery Support Programme (BRSP) is specifically aimed at assisting uninsured small businesses directly affected by the violence and looting that took place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in the week of July 9.

    Entrepreneurs who need funding for working capital, equipment, furniture, and fittings are catered for.
  • The Township and Rural Entrepreneurship Programme

    The Township and Rural Entrepreneurship Programme (TREP), also under the Department of Small Business Development, offers small businesses in rural areas and townships financial and non-financial support.

    The programme, which existed before the looting, aims to turn opportunities in townships and rural areas into productive business ventures.
  • Informal Traders Support Programme

    The DSBD, along with Small Business Development Agency (Seda) and Small Business Finance Agency, has developed the Informal Traders Support Programme.

    The programme is aimed at supporting informal and micro businesses in the informal sector affected by the recent looting.
  • Business Development Support

    In addition to the Informal Traders Support Programme, Seda provides Business Development Support.

    This includes the development of business plans where necessary, financial management training, and other business support related aspects. It also includes pre and post investment support.

3. Economic recovery unlikely:

Recovery in the short term is unlikely, with unsustainable public finances the key barrier to growth.

Despite former finance minister Tito Mboweni’s recurring theme of cutting down government spending, data released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on June 30 shows that spending was 12% higher in 2019/2020 than the previous year. This was before the pandemic had any effect on the economy.

The charts below show that most of the spending was on resource allocation to organisations. Notably, this was in the form of grants to other government spheres. It is the 12% or R205 billion expense in interest paid to service public debt that is worrying.

National government spending 2019/2020
Source: Stats SA

Two reasons immediately come to mind.

First, National Treasury projects debt servicing to increase by R236.4 billion in 2020/21, or from 4% of GDP to 4.9% of GDP. Debt-service costs are expected to reach R301.1 billion, or 5.4% of GDP, in 2022/2.

Second, at the current borrowing rate, by 2022/23 gross national government debt is projected to amount to 86% of GDP, or R4. 83 trillion.

Unemployment

Both employees and employers have been negatively impacted by the imposition of lockdowns. Even with the easing of varying restriction levels, medium and small companies across industries have closed their doors for good, resulting in job losses.

For example, pre-pandemic unemployment was above 30%, while the 34.4% in the second quarter as shown in the figure below is the highest level on record. Further, if you consider people who have given up looking for jobs the unofficial unemployment rate is above 43%.

GDP

Newly released data from Stats SA shows that performance in the period under consideration points to negative growth in both the previous and revised GDP rates.

The spotlight on GDP is not for the next two or four years, but for the next 10 years and beyond. At -6.4% revised and -7% previously, the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 is significant. It means South Africa, already falling behind some of its peers due to the low growth of the ‘lost decade’ or the period from the 2010s, is unlikely to improve its economic performance or create conditions needed for economic growth.

Recovery?

All the preceding points considered, it is not simply that one does not have hopes for economic recovery. However, current events and the snapshots provided here suggest that a bounce-back in the short term is unlikely. The negative trend in these key indicators overshadows the country’s chances of growth.

Bold decisions and solutions are needed, but they have to be right and they have to make the job market and economic recovery better for all.

4. Social security reform withdrawn:

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu has hastily withdrawn the green paper on reforming the country’s welfare structure released two weeks ago that, among other recommendations, proposed a 12% tax on incomes to fund a state-controlled social security fund. 

The Department of Social Development (DSD) released the paper on August 18 for public comment, but it met with stinging criticism from some sectors of the public, business, and significantly from National Treasury, which said it had not been adequately consulted. 

The paper did however receive support from some civic organizations, particularly those pushing for the introduction of a universal basic income grant (BIG), as well as from trade unions. 

In a statement on Wednesday, the DSD said the proposals in the green paper had been “misunderstood” and “misinterpreted”. The department said it would re-release the paper “soon” when the confusion had been addressed. 

“Some of the technical aspects of the proposals were not well understood and many have misrepresented the proposals, particularly on the National Social Security Fund,” the department said. “It has become apparent that some of these areas need further clarification to avoid any further confusion.”

The paper proposed setting up a National Social Security Fund into which employers and employees would pay up to 12% of their earnings, with a ceiling of R276,000 per year. It would also see a consolidation of the various welfare funds like Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and social benefits paid for maternity, illness, disability and death. 

5. Home Affairs to partner with more banks:

The Department of Home Affairs plans to expand its partnership with banks to offer more services at branches across the country.

In a presentation to parliament on Tuesday (31 August), the department said that there are currently 27 bank branches that offer E-Home Affairs services across six different provinces.

The department said it plans to roll out these services to a further 43 sites in the near future.

“This initiative was done mainly to assist with the reduction of long queues at DHA offices and to expand the service platforms and allow citizens to apply for Smart ID cards and passports online.

“Applicants are only required to visit the bank branch to complete the biometrics, thereby reducing the time spent in the bank or DHA office.”

The department said that the rollout of pilot sites will be completed as soon as possible as this has been outstanding for a number of years.

All of South Africa’s biggest banks – with the exception of Capitec – offer the E-Home Affairs service at a handful of their branches.

Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank have had multiple branches supporting the service for several years. Discovery Bank and Investec Bank recently started participating in the programme with one branch each.


All information sourced from articles posted by: EWN, BusinessTech, Business Insider, Moneyweb, and Daily Maverick.

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