April 9, 2019 / 1:04 PM / 5 months ago

IMF trims South Africa's economic growth forecast to 1.2 percent

JOHANNESBURG, April 9 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund lowered its forecast for South Africa’s economic growth to 1.2 percent in 2019 and to 1.5 percent in 2020, saying political and policy uncertainty remained a constraint on activity.

South Africa has seen growth stagnate in the decade since the world’s financial crisis, with policy missteps under former President Jacob Zuma making worse global conditions marked by a plunge in commodity prices and a rise in the cost of capital.

The economy grew 0.8 percent in 2018, and the 1.2 percent expansion projected by the IMF is down from its October forecast of 1.4 percent. In February, the National Treasury said gross domestic product would grow 1.5 percent in 2019.

“The projected recovery reflects modestly reduced but continued policy uncertainty in the South African economy after the May 2019 elections,” the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook before its spring meetings in Washington this month.

“Structural bottlenecks” would continue to weigh on investment and productivity, while subdued metal export prices were also a risk, the IMF said ,referring to the country’s longstanding lack of skilled labour and competition in key industries.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to re-ignite growth by attracting 1.2 trillion rand ($86 billion) of investments in the next five years and improving the ease of doing business in the country.

He faces an uphill battle with nationwide electricity blackouts last month expected to dim business and consumer confidence before national elections on May 8. ($1 = 14.0247 rand) (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana, editing by Larry King)

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