SA has been in denial about the state of the economy. It is in much worse shape than many realised. The problems are deep-seated and structural: growth and productivity have been declining in tandem since the 2008 global financial crisis, public debt has been building rapidly and economic policy has been incoherent for many years. The country has become steadily less attractive and less efficient — something that has been partially masked until recently by a supportive external environment. Nobody should have been taken by surprise that the economy slid into a recession during the first half of the year, dragged down by a bipolar agriculture sector, shrinking consumer demand and shrivelling fixed investment. The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. With hindsight South Africans were naive to think the country’s fortunes would be readily turned around by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment. In February, many hoped the economy would rebound to grow 2% this year, steadily...

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