SA in last chance saloon – Moody’s; debt soars; Zim protests; US equities soar

By Jackie Cameron

  • South Africa is fighting to preserve its last remaining investment-grade credit rating and avert a forced selloff of billions of rand of its debt after Moody’s Investors Service gave it just over three months to get its finances in order, says Bloomberg. The ratings company cut the outlook of the nation’s Baa3 foreign- and local-currency assessments, both of which are one step above speculative grade, to negative, continues the news wire. The Moody’s warning comes after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni presented a rapidly deteriorating outlook in his medium-term budget policy statement, with gross government debt seen surging to 80.9% of gross domestic product in the 2028 fiscal year unless urgent action is taken.
  • When Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994, he faced the challenge of uniting a nation divided by apartheid and healing an economy shattered by sanctions and mismanagement, write Bloomberg journalists. A quarter of a century later, his one-time protege Cyril Ramaphosa faces perhaps even bigger obstacles, including a dismally low economic growth rate of 2%, says the news wire. “Zuma and his allies erased about 20 years of progress,” Claude Baissac, the head of Eunomix Business and Economics, which advises on political risk, is reported as saying. The economy hasn’t grown by more than 2% annually since 2013. Zuma left Ramaphosa facing a mountain of debt and a lack of competence in government institutions. South Africa’s government debt is approaching 80% of GDP.
  • There is hope for troubled African nations looking for finance from the world. The World Bank could provide as much as $5bn to Democratic Republic of Congo over the next five years if its new government commits to raising more revenue, fighting corruption and opening up its economy, says Bloomberg. The financing would be a welcome boost for Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi, who has promised a bold series of costly social programs, including free primary-school education for more than 20 million children, according to the news organisation. Last month, continues Bloomberg, the International Monetary Fund said it’s considering resuming lending to the country after a seven-year hiatus. The World Bank is offering to support parts of the government’s agenda, “but not at any price,” Jean-Christophe Carret, the World Bank country director for Congo, is quoted as saying. “We will help if they are credible in their will to reform a lot of things in the economy.”
  • Zimbabwe police have given public sector workers permission to march for better pay on Wednesday in what is widely seen as a test of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s willingness to tolerate dissent, reports Reuters. A notice received from police by the Apex Council of public sector unions said the protest could go ahead but also warned that police would stop the march if it turned violent, says the news agency. Charles Chinosengwa, spokesman for the Apex Council, which represents 230,000 workers – excluding the health and security sectors – is reported as saying the protest march would go ahead irrespective of the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting. Daily life in Zimbabwe is getting harder, with prices of basic goods, fuel and electricity rising as hope fades for a quick economic recovery under Mnangagwa, who took power after the late Robert Mugabe was ousted in a coup in 2017, says Reuters.
  • US stocks climbed to records while Treasuries tumbled as trade optimism fueled demand for risk assets, says Reuters. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 140 points at the open Monday to claim its first all-time high since July.