Economists are in the habit of crying wolf. All too often they suggest that SA is heading for the dustbin of history without actually checking the evidence. The resulting cacophony of doomsaying risks drowning out discussion about SA’s real socioeconomic problems. The received wisdom is that GDP growth is slower than the norm, while joblessness is rising and inequality is getting worse. None of these statements is fully accurate, although all have some truth. They persist partly because of weak data and partly because of misguided efforts to scare people into agreeing to various economic policies. First, a reality check. Assessments of SA’s growth depend heavily on the benchmark countries. Most analyses use upper-middle-income countries (UMIC) — almost 60 countries including SA, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and China — with annual per capita income ranging from $4,000 to $12,000 (essentially GDP per person).China is the elephant in the room. It accounts for almost half of UMIC production ...

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