South African Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
South African Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba should be given time to settle into the job before being judged on his performance, according to South African Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago.

President Jacob Zuma’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister hasn’t affected ties between the central bank and the National Treasury, Kganyago said in an interview on Thursday in Washington.

The minister “needs to be given time to create the rapport with his team at the Treasury,” he said. “It’s a very competent team and hopefully he is able to hold on to that team.”

The remarks seek to ease concern that Gordhan’s dismissal will affect the country’s fiscal and economic policies. The cabinet reshuffle at the end of March prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to cut South Africa’s credit rating to below investment grade, causing the rand to weaken against the dollar. While the currency has since trimmed its losses as investors sought higher emerging-market yields, the downgrades risk undermining investor confidence in Africa’s largest economy.

Policy Intact

Gigaba plans to meet with Moody’s Investors Service during his current visit to the US to reassure the ratings company that fiscal policy won’t change, the minister said this week. Moody’s placed South Africa on review for a downgrade after Gordhan was fired. The rand on Thursday reached its strongest level since the reshuffle after having erased its 10% gain for the year.

Kganyago, a former head of the Treasury, said he’s already held two “very cordial, very extensive” meetings with the finance minister and his deputy to discuss the challenges facing the economy.

The three officials are in charge of reviving an economy that the World Bank expects to expand less than 1% for the second year in a row. The central bank, however, is sticking to its forecast of a 1.2% expansion for now, the governor said.

“We still have a view of an economy that’s its improving but still in a low-growth trap,” he said. The Monetary Policy Committee will “take stock” of the latest economic developments when it meets again in May, he said.

The MPC has kept the benchmark interest rate unchanged since last March after raising it by 200 basis points to 7% over two years to curb consumer prices. Inflation eased in March to 6.1%, the lowest level in six months and just outside the upper end of the central bank’s target band.

The monetary policy stance “strikes the necessary balance between dealing with inflation and supporting the nascent economic recovery,” Kganyago said.


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