Outraged unions fight govt cuts; fresh SAA bail-out; coronavirus leaps outside China; Massmart, Implats

By Jackie Cameron

  • The credibility of South Africa’s proposals to curb debt and save its sole investment-grade credit rating will be put to the test by powerful labour unions outraged by plans to pare back the wage bill, says Bloomberg. The government, it says, is seeking to backtrack on a three-year pay deal agreed with civil servants in 2018 and cut personnel spending by about R38bn this year and by about R122bn for the next two years to offset the effect of lower-than-expected economic growth and tax revenue, according to the budget review Finance Minister Tito Mboweni presented on Wednesday. “While financial markets cheered the news, with the rand gaining as much as 0.8% against the dollar on Wednesday, the government’s ability to hold firm against its 1.3 million state workers who’ve consistently won inflation-beating increases is in doubt,” says the news wire. “The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest labor group, is a member of the ruling coalition and President Cyril Ramaphosa is indebted to it for helping him win control of the ruling party in late 2017,” it adds.
  • Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has told journalists the government would be “stupid” to make noises that will precipitate the collapse of troubled national carrier SAA, which has received more taxpayers’ funds to keep it in the air. He was responding to questions about the discrepancy between his stated reluctance in the past to support SAA and a fresh bail-out from the government for the airline. The latter was announced on Wednesday when Mboweni presented the annual budget. The government has doubled the level of funding for the national airline to R16.4bn – compare that to the R9.2bn earmarked for SAA in October.
  • The speed at which coronavirus is spreading outside China has overtaken the pace of the spread of the disease in the country where the first case was reported in early December, the World Health Organisation says. In its daily situation report on Thursday, it said there were 459 confirmed cases outside of China in the past 24 hours, compared with 412 new ones in China, where the outbreak began.
  • South Africa will lose out on Chinese tourism spend this year, with no Chinese tourists scheduled to visit the country this year – which is a far cry from the usual 100 000 travellers who visit the Western Cape and beyond. China’s Consulate General in Cape Town, Lin Jing, is reported as telling Parliament’s oversight committee on Tourism that South Africa, and Cape Town in particular, will lose out on tourists this year, because coronavirus fears have grounded Chinese travellers.
  • Retail giant Massmart, owner of Game, Makro and DionWired, reported a fall in trading profits to R1.1bn – that’s 46.3% lower than 2018. Massmart announced its financial results on the Stock Exchange News Service. The Group reported a loss of R1.3bn compared to a profit of R0.9bn during 2018, and a headline loss of R1.1bn compared to a profit of R0.9bn during 2018.”
  • Impala Platinum on Thursday posted a rise in half-year earnings, reinstated dividends and halted closure of two shafts, after higher metals prices and improved operations boosted profits, says Reuters.