Excerpts from the statement by Gill Marcus, Governor:
Since the previous meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, the economic growth outlook has deteriorated against the backdrop of protracted strike action in the mining and manufacturing sectors. The economy contracted in the first quarter of 2014, and the growth outlook for the rest of the year remains subdued amid low business confidence. Compounding the MPC’s policy dilemma, inflation has breached the upper end of the target range, driven primarily by the exchange rate depreciation and rising food prices, while a possible wage-price spiral resulting from recent wage settlements and wage demands considerably in excess of inflation and productivity growth have added to the upside risk to the inflation outlook.
The MPC is also increasingly concerned about the inflation outlook, and the further upside risks to the forecast. Although the exchange rate remains a key factor in this regard, the possibility of a wage-price spiral should wage settlements well in excess of inflation and productivity growth become an economy-wide norm has increased. Although the inflation trajectory has not deteriorated markedly since the previous meeting, upside risks have increased, and it is expected to remain uncomfortably close to the upper end of the target range when it does eventually return to within the target. The upside risk factors make this trajectory highly vulnerable to any significant changes in inflation pressures.
The MPC is, however, cognisant of the fact that the inflation pressures do not reflect excess demand conditions in the economy. Household consumption expenditure remains weak, and credit extension to households is contracting in real terms. However, we do have to be mindful of second-round effects of supply side shocks.
We would like to reiterate that monetary policy should not be seen as the growth engine of the economy. The sources of the below par growth performance are largely outside the realms of monetary policy. In the short term, an improvement in the interaction and relationships between management and labour is essential to foster a climate of trust and confidence, and get South Africa back to work. Given that the key headwinds preventing a return to trend growth are structural, there is an urgent need to implement necessary structural reforms, as envisaged in the National Development Plan, in order to achieve higher and more inclusive growth.