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In the space of a week SA’s optics have brightened: the economy is 11% larger than previously thought, the debt ratio has dropped from the low 80% range to the low 70% range, and the budget deficit is likely going to beat the National Treasury’s target this year, despite all the additional unrest and pandemic-related spending.

This upgrade is a result of Stats SA’s GDP rebasing and benchmarking review — a routine statistical exercise that is normally undertaken every five years. By applying new methodologies, more precise categorisation and improved coverage, in line with international best practice, the exercise usually finds that we’ve been underestimating the size of the economy. But this time around the upward revisions are two years late (mainly because of Covid-19) and particularly large...

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