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Petrol, Electricity, and Interest Rates Set to Soar in 2022

After a brief reprieve at petrol pumps in January, South African motorists can expect another hefty hike in February on the back of ever-increasing international oil prices, according to the economists from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER).

Following a rather tumultuous first trading week of 2022, global equity and bond markets were calmer last week. Commodities saw more action, with the one-month Brent crude oil future ending the week more than 5% higher, the group said in a research note on Monday (17 January).

“A combination of oil demand holding up despite the Omicron-driven surge in Covid infections (especially in the US) and supply disruptions boosted the oil price,” it said.

“After some reprieve on the domestic fuel price front in January, the renewed rise in the oil price is likely to result in another hefty fuel price increase in February.”

Interest Rate  

There will also be a significant focus on inflation data this week ahead of the South African Reserve Bank’s interest rate decision on the 27th of January, the BER said.

“We expect the headline CPI to increase by 5.8% y-o-y (consensus is at 5.7%), up from 5.5% in November. This is courtesy of a projected 0.4% m-o-m rise, driven by the more than 70c/litre rise in both the petrol and diesel price at the start of that month, as well as the quarterly survey of rental costs.

“As a result of the seasonal rise in meat prices, the food category should also add to the overall monthly CPI increase.”

South Africa is likely to see at least three interest rate hikes in 2022 as the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has indicated that it will begin unwinding its accommodative monetary policy stance.  In a research note published on the  4th of January, the group said that the SARB’s quarterly projection model calculates a steep interest rate hiking cycle – resulting in interest rates of 5.75% by the end of 2023 and 6.75% by the end of 2024.

“In our view, well-behaved inflation, anchored inflation expectations, and a pedestrian growth outlook advocate a more moderate interest rate hiking cycle,” Momentum said. “We expect the SARB to hike interest rates thrice by a cumulative 75 basis points in 2022 and a further three times by another 75 basis points in 2023.”

Electricity Price Increases 

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) is also expected to table its 2022/23 price determination in parliament at the end of February or at the beginning of March. Chief financial officer for Eskom Calib Cassim, has confirmed that the state-owned power utility has applied for an electricity price increase of 20.5% for its 2023 financial year, set to take effect from 1 April 2022.

On 5 March 2021, Nersa approved a hike of 15.06% for Eskom’s direct customers, which was implemented on 1 April 2021. A hike of 17.80% for municipalities commenced on 1 July 2021. Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has warned that similar increases would simply be unaffordable for most South Africans this year.

“Like the majority of South Africans, many Capetonians are struggling to make ends meet. The pandemic and national lockdown led to the closure of hundreds of businesses in our City and the loss of thousands of jobs. Our residents are faltering under the burden of the rising costs of energy, fuel, food, and basic consumer goods.

“The consumer price index (CPI) is currently stated as 5,5%; this would have been a more reasonable tariff increase for Eskom. The price of electricity has risen by 307% over the past 13 years, far exceeding inflation. Despite paying more for power, South Africans have experienced an unreliable electricity supply — 2020 and 2021 were two of the worst load shedding years on record.”

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