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Woman walks past EU and UK flags
UK economy experiences mixed fortunes ahead of Brexit
11 March 2019, 7:01 AM

With just weeks to go until Britain is due to exit the European Union, the country’s economy is experiencing mixed fortunes, with slowing growth and low unemployment.

Pre-Brexit Britain is also buffeted by bitter global headwinds – from slowing Chinese and euro zone economies as well as trade war tensions.

Ahead of this week’s crucial vote by parliament on support for the Brexit deal, here is a summary of Britain’s key economic indicators:

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed to 1.4% last year after expanding by 1.8% in 2017.

The OECD, which groups the world’s top developed economies, last week forecast that Britain’s economy would grow only 0.8% this year as it slashed a previous estimate of 1.4%.

Worryingly, the revision assumed a smooth Brexit process, despite fears that Britain could still crash out of the European Union without a deal.

The Bank of England has also drastically cut its UK growth forecast for this year, even in the event of an orderly Brexit.

The government is expected to revise its official growth forecasts when it gives a budget update on Wednesday.

Faced with Brexit uncertainty, companies’ UK investments dropped 1.4% in the final three months of last year compared with the third quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It was the fourth quarterly decline in a row, the worst run for Britain since the global financial crisis a decade earlier.

Japanese carmakers Honda and Nissan both recently curbed investment, while doubts remain over Airbus activities in Britain, especially after the European aerospace giant axed its A380 super jumbo jet.

British unemployment stands at 4.0%, the lowest rate since 1975.

Average earnings including bonuses grew by 3.4% in the three months to December from a year earlier, boosting the purchasing power of workers’ salaries.

Britain’s annual inflation rate, which surpassed 3.0% following the Brexit referendum in June 2016 as a plunging pound hiked import costs, has steadily declined to stand at a two-year low of 1.8%.

The drop has allowed the Bank of England to keep its main interest rate at very low rate of 0.75%, helping borrowers but hurting savers.

Consumer confidence has hit a five-year low, according to the GFK Institute.

The ONS has meanwhile pointed to sluggish growth in household spending over the past two years.

The pound, seen as a better indicator of the UK’s economic health than the London stock market which is loaded with multinationals, has shed approximately 12% against the dollar since June 2016 – and more than 10% versus the euro.

A weaker pound nonetheless boosts exporters, whose goods and services become cheaper for those buying in stronger currencies.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi
Newly-released school regulations to be gazetted soon: Lesufi
11 March 2019, 6:34 AM

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says the newly-released school admission regulations for the province will soon be gazetted.

The guidelines which Lesufi announced on Sunday will also expand the province’s feeder zones for schools from the current radius of five kilometres to 30 kilometres.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the provincial Education Department, after Lesufi took the matter to court.

“The good thing that excites us is that no one now will say, I’m excluded because I come from the township. But it also paves for future achievements because learners must not only go to the suburbs. One day others will go to the townships. So this regulation therefore paves for that future. And we are excited that the doors of learning have been open for all our children.”

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Ethiopia plane crash.
Ethiopia declares Monday a day of national mourning
11 March 2019, 6:15 AM

Ethiopia’s parliament has declared Monday, a day of national mourning, after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed killing all 157 people on board.

Flight ET 302 was enroute from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, when it went down near the town of Bishoftu, six minutes after take-off on Sunday.

Anxious families say they rushed to the airport in Addis Ababa.

The Jomo Kenyatta International was the final destination for ET 302, with at least 32 Kenyans on board.

Many of those on board were attending the United Nations Environmental Assembly due to open in Nairobi on Monday.

Grief-stricken relatives have been trying to get any information on their loved ones.

With little information coming in, social media was their first port of call. Kenya is the worst affected by the crash.

The last Ethiopian Airline crash was in 2010 when its flight crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, shortly after it took off from Beirut. All the 90 people on board died.

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Taxi commuters at a taxi rank
Thousands of taxi commuters in Soweto could be stranded on Monday
11 March 2019, 5:41 AM

Thousands of taxi commuters in Soweto could be stranded on Monday. This as the provincial government plans to close major routes and ranks due to taxi violence.

Soweto taxi associations had until Friday to motivate why their routes and ranks should not be closed. Several incidents of violence have been reported since the start of the year.

Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi has threatened to shut down the routes used by the Dube West and the Witwatersrand taxi associations.

There have also been several attacks on commuters. At least 5000 taxis could be affected if the MEC shuts down the routes.

The department will make a decision on Monday.

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Little Daisy.
Little Daisy’s dream comes true as President Ramaphosa visits her
8 March 2019, 12:24 PM

The dream of an eight-year-old girl from East London who had written a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa finally came true when he visited her school on Friday.

Daisy Ngedle wrote a heart-warming letter to Ramaphosa, saying she likes the work he does and asked if girls can also become presidents.

The President took the time to reply to her letter, and assured that she can become anything she likes.

When asked by the SABC what  she would do if she becomes President, Daisy had a sharp answer: “I would make more schools, I would make more hospitals, and make sure every single kid goes to school, and has food.”

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