Hilary Joffe Columnist

Was the better-than-expected economic growth number in the third quarter a temporary bounce or the start of a recovery? There's certainly a lot to recover from. Growth over the past five years has averaged hardly more than 1%, well below the population growth rate of 1.6%-1.7%, so, on average, living standards in SA have gone sharply backwards. Nor do the third-quarter growth figures indicate the economy is about to shoot the lights out any time soon. After two negative quarters, it bounced back with a 2.2% positive quarterly number — that is, comparing the third quarter with the second. Compare the first nine months of this year with the first nine months of last year, however, and growth was just 0.8%, indicating the full-year 2018 growth outcome will be below 1% and economists, sadly, are just quibbling about the decimal points. Even the optimistic economists don't expect much more than 2% next year. But that assumes not only that volatile sectors such as agriculture don't turn n...

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