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Economy in Brief

Building Plans Moderate in South Africa, but Recent Strength Puts Plans Well Ahead of Completions
by Carol Stone July 19, 2006

As the following charts and table illustrate, there's been something of a building boom in South Africa. Over the last few months, however, some areas of construction have been slowing.

Statistics South Africa reported today that total building plans passed declined in May to ZAR 3.92 billion from ZAR 4.00 billion in April (seasonally adjusted, 2000 prices. "ZAR" is the ISO code for the South African Rand). This amount is 3.2% below May 2005. This collection of data begins in 2000 and remains relatively erratic, so caution should be used in assessing just one month's figures. Indeed, Statistics South Africa highlights 3-month moving averages and year-to-date data in its press releases.

By type, there is an emerging downtrend in residential construction, while nonresidential building remains strong. Additions and alterations have been fairly steady. In the residential sector, small houses (under 80 square meters, about 861 square feet) are quite vigorous, with a 6-month moving average ending May up 70% from a year ago. Larger houses, though, are trailing off: in May the 6-month average was up 9.2% year-on-year, but a 3-month average was up only 4.1%.

Within the nonresidential sector, data are available not seasonally adjusted in nominal terms for offices, shopping centers, and industrial and warehouse structures. Perhaps in line with the residential sector's general slowing, shopping space construction plans have been flat now for about six months. Offices and banks, though, are still advancing, and industrial and warehousing facilities were up in May by nearly 63% from a year ago, based on 3-month average figures. This is large, but considerably more moderate than the 100%+ pace that characterized the latter part of 2005.

These are building "plans". With the recent surge in plans, many projects, especially nonresidential buildings will take some time for the construction. Thus, buildings completed, a separate measure, is much smaller than the plans figure. In May, a 3-month average of that total (seasonally adjusted) was ZAR 2.12 billion, up 23.9% from May 2005.

Monthly Averages
South Africa: 
SA, Mil.2000.Rand
May 2006 Apr 2006 Mar 2006 Year Ago
2005 2004 2003
Building Plans Passed 3925 4001 3886 3996 3912 2707 2013
Residential 2006 2048 2227 2403 2230 1624 1146
Nonresidential 847 881 613 591 651 395 334
Additions & Alterations 1072 1072 1046 1002 1031 688 533
Buildings Completed 1915 2064 2371 1884 1943 1417 1147
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