Like Cyril Ramaphosa, business is playing a "long game"
Surely not? We have had the launch of a $100 billion investment drive, a stimulus package, a "job summit", and an "investment summit", yet business confidence is now lower than when Cyril Ramaphosa assumed office as president of the country in February this year.
According to the latest confidence index issued by Rand Merchant Bank and the Bureau for Economic Research at the University of Stellenbosch, business confidence in the fourth quarter of the year stood at 31 on a scale of 1 to 100, against 44 in the first quarter. Admittedly, 31 is much better than the record low of 10 in the third quarter of 1985, the time of PW Botha's calamitous "Rubicon" speech.
But it is far below the all-time high of 91 in 1980. It is also significantly below the long-term average of 44.49 over the period 1975-2018 – which included the Soweto revolt, the debt standstill, the ten-year long "people's war", and tightening international economic sanctions, not to mention the depredations of the Zuma years.
The score of 31, measuring the "levels of optimism" among 3 800 senior executives is the most comprehensive assessment so far of President Ramaphosa's performance in relation to the economy. And it is damning. According to the BER, "seven out of ten respondents remain unhappy with prevailing business conditions".
The survey was compiled before the recent rise in the repo rate and after the investment summit in Sandton at which various captains of industry queued up to announce investment commitments. Few of these were new, but Mr Ramaphosa nevertheless proclaimed that "the investment strike by businesses is over" – to be greeted by what was reported as "thunderous applause".