Private investment dropped sharply in the past two years, in the most prolonged fall since 1994. In the year to June, it fell more than R55bn, or 10%, in constant rand from 2015 to 2017, after climbing 21% over the previous five years. This wasn’t the sharpest fall since 1994. Investment dropped 13% from 2009 to 2010 (again using the year to June) in the global financial crisis. But it’s by far the most durable drop in private investment since the transition to democracy. Private investment reflects business’s economic expectations and political risk. When the economy is booming, it often does fine even where corruption is rampant and the rule of law is sketchy. But a slowing economy — and the economy has inevitably been affected by the fall in metal and coal prices from 2011 — makes business much pickier. In SA, more than in most countries, business perceptions of the economy and politics have been fraught. For investors, the core of the 1994 compromise was that democracy would be ...

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