South Africans are smashing their piggy banks

The national saving rate as a percentage of nominal GDP showed a 13% decline in the final quarter of last year, indicating dissaving sentiment shared across households, businesses and government.

This reading was down 2.9% from the quarter before (Q3 2022). When looking from a yearly perspective, the total percentage of savings, when compared to GDP, showed a 2.1% decline between 2021 and 2022.

Recent data from the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) latest quarterly bulletin said: “Despite fluctuating between a high of 16.4% in the first quarter of 2022 and a low of 13.0% in the fourth quarter, the annual national saving rate declined to 14.6% in 2022 from 16.5% in 2021.”

Regarding households specifically, gross saving as a ratio to GDP declined to 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022 from 2.3% in the third quarter, as the increase in seasonally adjusted nominal consumption expenditure outweighed that in seasonally adjusted disposable incomes.

“Similarly, the annual saving rate of households declined from 2.8% in 2021 to 2.4% in 2022,” reported the SARB.

Demand for credit continued to increase and amounted to around R38 billion in the third quarter of 2022, with mortgage loans contributing to R22.2 billion.

The SARB reported that over 2022, households were acquiring financial assets, including loans, at a rate faster than its net incurrence of financial liabilities.

Recent data from the Eighty20 Credit Stress Report shows that there was a turn to credit over the final quarter of last year to survive the onslaught of cost-of-living increases.

Neil Roets, the CEO of Debt Rescue, said that consumers are stuck in a debt spiral caused by the relentless onslaught of economic forces.

Like consumers, businesses across the country have also been unable to save. SARB said that in the corporate sector, the percentage of nominal GDP decreased from 16.3% in the third quarter of 2022 to 13% in the final three months.

The central bank said this was due to subdued seasonally adjusted operating surplus and higher seasonally adjusted tax payments.

Over the whole of 2022, corporate savings decreased to 14.1% from 15.8% in 2021.

Dissaving by the government also decreased in the fourth quarter (2.3%) from 2.7% in the quarter before. “The dissaving rate of general government decreased from 2.1% in 2021 to 1.9% in 2022,” SARB said.

GDP itself has taken various hits recently, with growth expectations constantly being revised lower. According to the deputy governor of the SARB, Rashad Cassim, the country is currently facing the lowest growth episode in its modern history, and living standards are expected to slip further.

The central bank said that economic activity throughout the final quarter of 2022 decreased as a result of load shedding and logistical constraints relating to Transnet.

“Real gross domestic product (GDP) reverted from a revised expansion of 1.8% in the third quarter of 2022 to a contraction of 1.3% in the fourth quarter as output declined in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.”

“Annual growth in real GDP slowed from 4.9% in 2021 to 2.0% in 2022, with the level of real GDP only 0.3% higher than in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” said the SARB.

Click here to view the stats from SARB:

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