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from MacroScope:

Osborne stakes out election ground with little fiscal leeway

The annual UK budget is always a big set piece but it’s hard to remember one where there have been fewer advance leaks – indicative of a steady-as-she-goes approach by George Osborne.
Having put so much political capital into reducing the deficit, to switch now at a time when the economy is recovering strongly would be politically risky. And with debt falling only slowly there is little fiscal leeway.

That’s not to say this isn’t a big political moment. Yes there is the finance minister’s autumn statement and another budget before May 2015 elections but this is the moment when the narrative for the economy and Britons’ wellbeing is staked out.

So expect a further increase in the threshold at which income tax starts to be paid, to help the poorer, and measures to boost business investment in an attempt to rebalance the economy.
Osborne will also extend his “help to buy” housing scheme, questionable at a time when property prices are rising strongly. On the thrift front, he will announce details of a ceiling on welfare spending.

Already, the Treasury has released figures showing most workers have seen their pay rise by more than inflation in recent years, an early riposte to the opposition Labour party’s claims that while the economy may now be growing strongly most of the country doesn’t feel it because living standards are falling. Labour is ahead in the opinion polls but its lead is what pollsters call “soft”.

from Africa News blog:

S.Africa must reform white-dominated economy

South Africa's economy is still largely under the control of whites who held power under apartheid, President Jacob Zuma has said calling  for a "dramatic shift" to redress the wealth balance more evenly in favour of the black majority.

Zuma, speaking at the start of a major policy meeting of his ruling African National Congress, said the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality posed long-term risks for Africa's richest country 18 years after the end of apartheid.

from Africa News blog:

Are African governments suppressing art?

By Cosmas Butunyi

The dust is finally settling on the storm that was kicked off in South Africa by a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

The country that boasts one of the most liberal constitutions in the world and the only one on the African continent with a constitutional provision that protects and defends the rights of  gays and lesbians , had   its values put up to  the test  after an artist    ruffled feathers by a painting that questioned the moral values  of the ruling African National Congress .

from Africa News blog:

Is Zuma home and dry after Malema’s expulsion?

By Cosmas Butunyi

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress may have expelled the rubble-rousing youth league president, Julius Malema, but challenges still remain for President Jacob Zuma, who is seeking a second term in a race that he is considered the frontrunner.

Observers say that Malema, who is considered one of the most prominent members of the party to openly break from Zuma, still can be a thorn in his side even though he is permanently barred from party-related events. He may use his expulsion to sharpen his criticism against Zuma's government.

from Breakingviews:

South Africa has work cut out to reach BRIC goal

South African president Jacob Zuma wants to join the BRICs. The likely deluge of foreign investment from membership of the club representing the biggest fast-growing economies would bring huge benefits. But Zuma has plenty to prove -- including that he can avoid the BRICs' worst failings.

The BRIC concept coined by Goldman Sachs, referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China, has attracted heavy global investment flows. That has speeded the four countries' growth -- although sometimes, as in Russia in 2007, it has also produced dangerous bubbles. With 25 percent unemployment and one of the world's biggest gaps between rich and poor, South Africa would greatly benefit from a similar surge in foreign investment to employ its people and improve their living standards.

from Africa News blog:

South Africa’s birthday party that isn’t

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It is exactly one hundred years today since the formation of the Union of South Africa, but there are no signs of celebration over that. SPORT SOCCER WORLDWhat exactly is the Union, you might ask? On May 31 1910, the southern part of Africa that is today known as the Republic of South Africa became a unitary state under British dominion in pretty much the geographical shape which exists to this day.

Given that for most South Africans, history from 1910 until the end of white minority rule in 1994 was one of exclusion and oppression there may be understandable reasons why it is not a date to be accompanied by mass celebrations.

from Africa News blog:

Was Zuma right to reveal HIV status?

SAFRICA/ South African President Jacob Zuma has disclosed that he is HIV negative after his most recent test for the virus that causes AIDS.
 Zuma said he wanted “to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic” in a country which has more people infected with the virus than any other – an estimated five million.

 Some South Africans had been calling on Zuma for a while to release the results of HIV tests and not just to take them. But critics now say Zuma could be sending the wrong message by saying he is HIV negative because of a lifestyle that has involved numerous affairs as well as marriages (he currently has three wives and a fiancée).

from Africa News blog:

Violence and tension come at worst time for World Cup

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SAFRICA-TERREBLANCHE/World Cup organisers probably dreamed of a placid, trouble-free final countdown to the soccer spectacular, with all the fears about crime, bad transport and accommodation shortages pushed to the background for Africa's biggest sports extravaganza. Sadly for them, they are getting the opposite. It would be difficult to conjure up a more unfortunate set of events less than 60 days before the tournament. Simmering racial tensions have burst into the open because of the murder of white supremacist Eugene Terre'blanche and the diatribes of Julius Malema, leader of the youth wing of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, who refuses to pipe down despite tough reprimands from President Jacob Zuma and other party officials. Even before what must be looking to hapless officials like a perfect storm, scenes had become commonplace of township residents rioting around South Africa against lack of improvements in their lives some 16 years after the end of apartheid.
To add to the torture for World Cup officials while the spotlight is fixed on South Africa, municipal workers have declared an indefinite strike over wages, threatening the chaotic scenes seen last year when rubbish was strewn over the streets. South Africa's biggest labour federation has threatened strikes during the tournament to protest against big hikes in power prices.
All of this illustrates the point that countries or cities staging major world events suddenly become fixed in an often uncomfortable glare of world attention as the big day approaches. But even by these standards, South Africa looks unfortunate. World Cup officials, led by chief organiser Danny Jordaan, have spent literally years fending off suggestions that soccer fans will be in mortal danger in South Africa, which has one of the globe's highest rates of violent crime. Jordaan and others have repeated a familiar mantra-- the country has staged 150 sports and other events since the end of apartheid with little problem, millions of tourists have enjoyed South Africa's many attractions for years without major criminal attacks and protecting a finite event is a lot less complex than overcoming the national crime wave--especially since 40,000 police have been mobilised to do only that.

Nevertheless, many foreign fans and even visiting journalists are anxious about security and alarmist media reports have undoubtedly deterred some, especially it seems in Germany--hosts of the last event. What could be worse then, as the final countdown begins, than the events of the last week or so? Terre'blanche was hacked and bludgeoned to death on April 3 in a killing whose brutality seemed almost calculated to set off new anxiety about visiting South Africa, even though police believe it was a simple criminal, rather than racial, attack. Terre'blanche's own fringe AWB party lost no time in telling foreign journalists that overseas fans would be in danger during the World Cup and most reports on the killing mentioned the tournament's approach. The most extreme reaction came from the U.K. tabloid the Daily Star which said English fans risked a "machete race war" --sparking howls of protest in South Africa.
All of this has been made a lot worse by Malema, a firebrand demagogue who had hitherto been apparently used by some of the ANC to hit at leftwingers in the party and to mobilise the youth vote, but who now seems to have got out of control. Terre'blanche's supporters say that Malema's insistence on reviving an apartheid-era song "Kill the Boer" -- which has now been banned by the courts --was the direct cause of the murder. Zuma said on Sunday, in an unusually strong reprimand, that Malema's comments and actions, including calling a BBC journalist a bastard and throwing him out of a press conference, were alien to the ruling party. Malema remained defiant despite the rebuke.

from Africa News blog:

How will South Africa reward Caster’s triumph???

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South Africa ’s  Caster Semenya returned home today following her 800m gold medal-win at the  World Athletics Championships in Berlin .

She was greeted by headlines from the country’s newspapers, expressing collective  national pride for her achievement.  “Welcome home, Caster, our champ. Caster, this nation is proud of you and we stand behind you, from Cape Town to Musina.”, screamed  the Johannesburg-based The Times Newspaper.

from Africa News blog:

Zuma’s time to deliver?

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Poor South Africans have called upon newly elected president Jacob Zuma to keep his election promises on service delivery. The past week has seen a number of protests flaring up across South Africa against what protesters called poor service delivery.

In one township in the country’s Mpumalanga province residents barricaded the entire township, burning tyres, throwing stones at policemen and calling for the head of the local mayor, whom they described as “good for nothing”. “There is no development. You can see for yourself,” one resident told journalists. He spoke of alleged neglect and apparent self enrichment from local government officials.

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