When exactly do you start pencilling “intention” into a GDP forecast and into asset prices?
This is a question that will plague analysts and modellers as well as investors in the coming year after last week’s state of the nation address (Sona).
After the ANC’s Nasrec conference and the 2018 Sona, GDP forecasts were upgraded by about a percentage point on the back of expectations of a different way of doing things and Ramaphoria leading to improved investment and growth. That turned out to be very much premature.
Investors learnt that intent and even actual, real strong positive sentiment are insufficient in the face of severe binding constraints on growth, as well as the fact that such changes can take considerable time.
GDP forecasts for 2018 were therefore revised back down during the year despite so many summits and announcements. As such scepticism on growth and the ability to turn it has set in and was evident in business leaders I met on a recent two weeks in SA.
Some of this is justified given that the complex and heavily interwoven nature of the binding constraints on growth mean many things need to be put right first.
However, we need to be constantly on guard to not make the same mistake in the opposite direction and keep growth forecasts too low for too long.
Beyond the specific narratives of the 2019 Sona, it is clear the Ramaphosa government now has an ability to crowd-source various, specific ideas into a speech and then into a programme for government.
The December and January colloquia as well as the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) seem to have had a strong impact in this regard.