Study: South African Economy Grew Steadily Over 2 Decades

    21 November, 2013


    This is the Economics Report from VOA Learning English.

    A new report is praising South Africa for its economic growth over the past 20 years. The report comes from the banking company Goldman Sachs. It decided to examine South Africa's economic progress since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

    Colin Coleman works for the company.

    "South Africa in the last year has tended to have a motional, somewhat negative reaction both domestically and internationally. And my view is that we needed to kind of get some perspective on the past 20 years as to what's been achieved in order to get a better balance in the debate," said Colin Coleman.

    The report notes changes to the South African economy over the past 20 years.

    "When you look back at what Nelson Mandela inherited in May when he became president, it was really bitter pill, because you had an indebted nation that had no money. There was growing below-population growth with huge unemployment, huge racial disparities, a very volatile political social environment. Effectively, that gave way to a golden period of growth, low inflation, bringing the debt down and an extraordinary performance until the global financial crisis," Coleman said.

    The report says the amount of money collected in taxes increased from $114 billion in 1994 to $814 billion. South Africans are not always happy about the direction of the economy, but business leaders and economists were pleased to see a long-term look at some of the improvements.

    Joanne Yawitch heads the National Business Initiative, the organization works on efforts to help strengthening the economy.

    "There's often a lot of doom and gloom talk about South Africa, but what the report did point out is some fairly of significant achievements over the last 20 years. In particular, there has been an increase in productivity, an increase in employment, there has been a huge increase in the number of people in the middle class. Quite a substantial improvement in the quality of life of a great number of people," said Joanne Yawitch.

    But the country still has problems. The report notes South Africa's education system continues to struggle, and the unemployment rate remains at about 24 percent. It says 70 percent of those jobless people are under age 34. There are also great racial inequality, especially in terms of earnings. The reports says 85 percent of blacks are poor, while 87 percent of whites are middle to upper class.

    There have been criticisms of the report. Some people say it depends heavily on general information, not cultural evidence.

    When Yawitch agrees with some of the criticisms, but she says the report shows the country has come a long way.

    "I think the reality certainly for me - I mean I grew up under apartheid and have spent 20 years in this democracy - is that life in South Africa is a lot better for most people than it ever was. But there are very, very big things that still have to happen. And I think that's what the report draws our attention to, is that it's a long journey and that we've made progress and must carry on," Yawitch said. "

    And that's the Economics Report from VOA Learning English.