S.African President calls for efforts to rebuild economy

CAPE TOWN: President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday urged South Africans to do all that they can to help rebuild the economy hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He made the appeal after Statistics South Africa released figures showing the country’s gross domestic product contracting by about 51 percent in the second quarter of this year.
The sharp drop “reflects the severe impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on the economy,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the annualized contraction represents an anomaly due to the COVID-19 lockdown imposed at the end of March which saw most industries closed for months.
The newly released figures nevertheless reinforce the importance of enabling a strong rebound in subsequent quarters, the president said.
Countries across the world are facing significant economic disruption as a result of the pandemic, leading to the worst global downturn in decades, he said.
“South Africa has not been spared these realities,” said Ramaphosa.
The coronavirus represents a once-in-a-century social and economic crisis, with disruptions to production, a synchronized decline in export markets and a prolonged decrease in demand for many service industries, he said.
“The economic circumstances created by the pandemic have caused hardship for many South Africans, and threaten the survival of businesses in sectors that are worst affected,” Ramaphosa said.
Having acted swiftly and decisively to save lives and bring the epidemic under control, the government’s focus now is on economic recovery, said Ramaphosa.
The 500-billion-rand (about 30 billion U.S. dollars) emergency relief package announced in April has prevented the worst effects of the pandemic, he said.
Moreover, tax relief worth over 70 billion rand has been extended to businesses in distress, according to Ramaphosa.
These and other measures have provided necessary relief to vulnerable individuals and businesses across the country, he said.
As the epidemic continues to stabilize, a strong recovery is possible through targeted actions to restore economic growth and protect the livelihoods of South Africans, Ramaphosa said.
“We cannot continue with business as usual. We will use this moment of crisis to build a new economy, and unleash South Africa’s true potential,”the president said.–Agencies