The South African Rand has weakened to over R14 to the dollar on the back of a bleak Budget Speech delivered by finance minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday.
Market reaction to Gigiba’s maiden speech was largely negative, with the rand sinking to its worst levels in 2017 shortly after it concluded. By the close of business on Wednesday, the local currency pushed through the R14 to the dollar mark.
On Thursday, the rand dropped even further, trading at R14.12 to the US dollar by 08h00, the lowest point since mid-December 2016.
The sell-off came on the back of bad news from Gigaba’s speech and report, which effectively showed a country that was running out of money, with few options open to it to reverse the trend.
Among many other problem areas, Gigaba said the budget deficit was likely to reach 4.3% of gross domestic product in the 2017/18 fiscal year, the highest since 2009, and way off the government target of 3.1%
Tax revenues also faced a major shortfall of over R50 billion in 2017, with the number expected to total R209 billion by 2019. Gigaba also expressed concern over a possible tax revolt among South African citizens and businesses.
State-owned companies were also highlighted as a massive problem area, in need of bailouts amid poor governance and decreasing demand for their services.
“Markets have taken the budget speech badly, there are a lot of negatives in there,” TreasuryOne currency dealer Wichard Cilliers told Reuters.
“They don’t like that debt to GDP is going to rise to 60% over next three years, the comments on the SAA bailout and the Eskom assistance. The R50.8 billion revenue shortfall will probably have to be financed by higher taxes next year.”
The budget speech also triggered downgrade warnings among analysts, saying that Gigaba’s “worst case scenario” presentation did not sugarcoat the challenges South Africa faces.
“If the ratings companies don’t do anything after today they are frozen behind the wheel,” George Herman, chief investment officer at Citadel Investment Services told Bloomberg. “The ratings downgrade is now all but guaranteed, it’s just a matter of them saving face and deciding when to do it.”