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Cape Town faces severe economic troubles over drought - Moody's

A severe drought afflicting South Africa’s Western Cape province is expected to cut agricultural output by 20% in 2018.

The Theewaterskloof dam, a dry landscape as the Western Cape is gripped by a water crisis. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Rating’s agency Moody’s warned on Monday the water crisis affecting Cape Town would cause the city’s borrowing to rise sharply and the provincial economy to shrink the longer the situation lasted.

A severe drought afflicting South Africa’s Western Cape province is expected to cut agricultural output by 20% in 2018, decimating the wheat crop and reducing apple, grape and pear exports to Europe, according to the national government.

The city is bracing for “day zero” in late August when its taps could run dry.

Moody’s said in a report that one of the most direct impacts would be on Cape Town’s operating revenues, as 10% of them are from water charges.

The ratings agency estimates capital expenditure related to water and sanitation infrastructure could be as much as R12.7 billion over the next five years.

“The long-term solutions are likely to require significant capital and operating expenditure,” Daniel Mazibuko, an analyst at Moody’s said.

The drought also threatens to slow South Africa’s economic rebound which has been fuelled by a surge in agricultural production. Cape town generated nearly 10% of the country’s total gross domestic product in 2016.

Last Tuesday, Statistics South Africa said the economy grew 3.1% in October-December, the highest rate since the second quarter of 2016, after expanding by a revised 2.3% in the third quarter. Agriculture showed a 37.5% expansion after growing 41.1% in the previous quarter.

Government has declared drought a national disaster after its southern and western regions including Cape Town got hit hard by the drought, freeing extra funds to tackle the crisis.

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