South Africa is not in a recession despite some economists saying so, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Thursday.
“No, we’re not,” Manuel said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) radio.
“I know that a number of economists that you speak to, say, ‘We think that the third quarter might be revised downwards’ — but the third quarter hasn’t been revised downwards. Technically, we’re not in a recession.”
He said he realised there was “an argument that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, it probably is a recession, but in technical terms, we’re not in a recession”.
“We’re not in recession yet, that’s a very important point, we’re not in a recession as we speak,” said Manuel.
Manuel, at the start of the interview, jokingly referred to himself as “number four”.
The African National Congress released its national election list on Wednesday and Manuel was its number four candidate.
“Call me Number Four,” he told radio host Tim Modise.
“Number Four, are you ready for us,” replied Modise, before heading into a number of questions.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is considering the investment of $2-billion into Zimbabwe’s reconstruction, Manuel said.
This was much less than the $5-billion that Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said was needed to reconstruct the crisis-torn country.
“I was present when Prime Minister Tsvangirai gave the number, but it was just a number given,” Manuel told SABC.
“There’s a document … that actually splits the immediate costs over the next 10 months into two amounts of about $1-billion each.”
This included a $1-billion loan to “restimulate retail and all kinds of things … that’s one billion we are exploring”, said Manuel.
“The other [is] about $1-billion for emergencies in education, health, municipal services and some infrastructure.”
The latter amount would include funds for water sanitation.
“It will be necessary to try to get as much support as possible to prevent this horrible, horrible, horrible scourge of cholera that Zimbabwe has lived through over these past few months,” said Manuel, referring to the epidemic that has killed more than 3 800 people and infected 83 000.
Zimbabwe also has the world’s highest inflation rate and is grappling with severe food shortages.
Manuel said the SADC ministers also discussed the effects of the global finance crisis on the region with the African Development Bank.
“We are a number of commodity exporters and I think that the impact is pretty severe and we were able to work through that and we will prepare a more detailed report for a meeting of African finance ministers on March 10 and 11 to be held in Tanzania,” said Manuel. — Sapa