Tim Cohen Senior editor: Business Day

It’s just a number. And it’s disputable. But facts are facts. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are now all bigger entities than SA — never mind Apple, which overtook the country long ago. It’s incredible that the world’s four largest companies by market capitalisation are all larger than SA’s GDP. But the trickier question is this: does it mean anything?There are lots of reasons the numbers themselves can be disputed. For one thing, this comparison is made against purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP, which tends to flatter countries that have weak currencies compared to the dollar. On an ordinary GDP basis, SA wouldn’t even be in the race. On a PPP basis, SA’s GDP is about US$800bn, or just over R11 trillion, according to International Monetary Fund numbers. On an ordinary dollar basis, SA’s GDP is $370bn. This is a big gap, and it illustrates the somewhat arbitrary nature of the GDP calculation. The more trenchant criticism is that GDP and market capitalisation measure different things. ...

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