ANNOUNCEMENT OF WINNER AND RUNNERS-UP OF THE 2022 BMR/UNISA ECONOMIST OF THE YEAR COMPETITION
The winner and two runners-up of the 2022 BMR/Unisa Economist of the Year competition were announced during an award ceremony held in Pretoria on the 1st of June. The competition winner and runners-up were identified by an adjudication panel determining which of the 33 participating economists were the most accurate at forecasting the outcomes of eight economic variables for 2022. The winner of the 2022 competition is Mr Ulrich Joubert (an independent economist), who has won this prestigious title of Economist of the Year four times in the past. The runners-up (in no particular order) were Ms Elize Kruger (independent economist) and Mr Emile du Plessis (Finometrica).
When asked for comments during the award ceremony, these top three economists indicated that 2022 was a particularly tough year to produce economic forecasts due to the large number of downside risks and unexpected black swan events impacting the economy. Pertinent factors in this regard included the Russian invasion of Ukraine, escalating Eskom power outages (loadshedding), increasing price inflation, as well as local and international political uncertainty. It was also pointed out by Mr Joubert that these downside risks and black swan events don’t just act in isolation of each other but exacerbate the negative economic impacts in a contemporaneous fashion. An example of this is the Ukraine war giving rise to higher price inflation, which in turn gives rise to the South African Reserve Bank increasing interest rates to address such high inflation, which in turn depresses aggregate demand for goods and services, which in turn gives rise to lower economic growth rates, which in turn gives rise to lower job creation and compensation growth, which in turn impacts negatively on future GDP growth, due to the fact that household consumption expenditure contributes to more than 60% of national output.
Looking towards 2023, the top three economists expect a very difficult year marked by low economic growth with a high possibility for a recession during the year, sticky high inflation, high interest rates, and depressed household consumption expenditure growth. They were also of the opinion that the number of downside risks to economic growth this year will most likely continue to increase, while further hikes in interest rates are expected to address the depreciating value of the Rand versus the US dollar as well as sticky high inflation rates. The overall expectation with respect to 2023 was that South Africa has to prepare itself for a very tough year ahead on both economic and political fronts. Such uncertainty emphasizes the need and value of the forecasts of the 38 economists who are participating in the 2023 Economist of the Year competition, attempting to bring some enlightenment in a very uncertain 2023 South African economy.
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