South Africa plans $20.5 billion of public works to spur economy

South Africa is planning projects worth $20.5 billion in sectors such as transport, energy and water as it looks to drive an economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, according to an African National Congress (ANC) top official.

South African bank notes featuring images of former South African President Nelson Mandela (R) are displayed next to the American dollar notes in this photo illustration in Johannesburg, file. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Paul Mashatile, the ANC’s treasurer-general, told a video conference organized by think tank Chatham House that the infrastructure projects would soon be approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet after talks with the private sector and multilateral development banks.

The projects would focus on areas such as railways, ports, energy, information technology, water and sanitation and housing, he added.

Africa’s most industrialised economy was already in recession before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, with the central bank now predicting a seven percent gross domestic product contraction this year and some economists forecasting a double-digit budget deficit.

“It is clear that given the scale of the damage to our economy, the post-COVID-19 reconstruction effort will be no mean feat,” Mashatile said.

Enoch Godongwana, who heads the ANC’s economic transformation subcommittee, told the same video conference that the government hoped to stimulate economic demand via the infrastructure programme, drawing on lessons from the 2010 soccer World Cup the country hosted.

“Global trade is going to be subdued, therefore exports will be minimal, we have got to look at how we stimulate demand in our given circumstances,” Godongwana said.