[Letter] SA citizens have low quality of life

On February 7, the petrol price rose by 75c per litre to R22.92/l for 93 unleaded petrol and R23.24/l for 95 unleaded petrol. The increase adds to the cost-of-living pressures SA citizens face.

In our latest SA Quality of Life Macro Review, published in January, we found that the average quality of life is 4.9 out of 10. The index makes use of the following 10 indicators to evaluate the quality of life: proportion of adults with a degree or better; employment rate; monthly expenditure of R10,000 or more; household tenure status; household access to piped water, electricity and basic sanitation facility; weekly refuse removal; medical aid coverage; and the murder rate.

SA’s score was most negatively affected by the following indicators: most South Africans struggle to access a degree or higher (0.8); have no medical aid coverage (1.6); low employment (5.8); dwellings are owned but not yet paid off (0.8); and the high murder rate (5.6).

The 4.9 out of 10 is a slight improvement on 2023’s 4.8 score, but a significant decrease from 2022’s 5.5 score. This is due to the high inflation rate: 6.9% in 2022, versus 6% in 2023. In addition, since 2021 the rand has depreciated significantly against the dollar, from R16.37/$ on average in 2022 to R18.45/$ average in 2023. The rand’s weakening increases import costs that elevate consumer prices. Between inflation and the weakening of the rand, living costs have increased significantly for the average South African.

Less disposable income is hindering growth and placing the economy under further pressure. While a Reserve Bank interest rate cut (possibly in the second or third quarter of this year) will bring some relief, on the supply side continued electricity blackouts, logistics challenges and higher operation costs imposed by Transnet failures, and elevated crime rates, will continue to dampen the average quality of life in SA.

The low quality of life score and performance of our index indicators reflects the state of governance in SA, an important factor to consider in the context of the 2024 general election.

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