A total of 276 building plans were approved by the City of Windhoek in July, 42 more than the 234 approvals in June. The value of building plans approved in July was N$214.7 million, which is only the second month this year in which approved plans surpassed the N$200 million mark, the other being January that registered N$269.3 million worth of approvals. A total of 260 buildings with a value of N$78.0 million were completed during the month of July. On a year-to-date basis, 1,251 plans have been approved, 192 more than the 1,059 plans approved over the same period last year. The year-to-date value of approved building plans currently stands at N$1.0 billion, which is 37% lower than the N$1.6 billion worth of approvals registered over the same period in 2017. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, 2,115 building plans worth approximately N$1.6 billion have been approved, 34.3% lower in value terms when compared to the same measure as at the end of July 2017.
Additions to properties generally make up the majority of the number of building plan approved. Additions accounted for 145 of the total 276 plans approved in July, 19% lower on a m/m basis. Year-to-date, 915 additions to properties have been approved, increasing by 6.4% y/y, but decreasing by 7.6% y/y in terms of value to N$621.2 million.
New residential units were the second largest contributor to the number of building plans approved in July, registering 131 approvals compared to the 53 registered in June. Year-to-date, 317 new residential units have been approved. This is an increase of 143 approvals when compared to the corresponding period in 2017. In value terms, N$342.9 million worth of residential plans have been approved year-to-date, a 15.3% increase when compared over the same period in 2017.
For the first time since May 2010 there were no approvals for commercial and industrial properties. The number of approvals for commercial and industrial properties have been languishing in single digit territory since September 2016 and have an average approval rate of 4 approvals per month over the last 12 months. The inactivity in the commercial and industrial space is reflective of the contraction in construction activity and recession in the economy as whole. Business confidence remains subdued, illustrated by the lack of capital investment. On a 12 month-cumulative basis, the number of commercial and industrial approvals has decreased by 25.4% y/y in July to 44 units, worth approximately N$112.2 million, a huge decrease of 85.8% in value terms over the prior 12-month period.
During the last 12 months 2,115 building plans have been approved, increasing by 14.0% y/y. These approvals were worth a combined N$1.6 billion, a decrease in value of 34.3% y/y. The number of building plans approved, on a cumulative 12-month basis, has been steadily increasing since December 2017. The growth in the cumulative number of plans approved has been driven mainly by approvals in additions to properties and new residential units which are of lower relative value. The overall decrease in value of cumulative plans approved is highly concerning as, even in nominal terms, this shows a substantial decrease of construction activity in the capital. Growth in commercial and industrial construction activity remains extremely subdued as the decrease (on a 12-month cumulative basis) in credit extended to corporates also reflects.
Significant deteriorations of the Turkish and Argentinian currencies have led to increasing fears of widespread emerging market contagion. The result has been an emerging market sell-off that has negatively impacted the rand. Policy uncertainty with regards to land reform has further exacerbated the issue. To make matters worse the SA economy has entered into a recession, contracting by 0.7% in Q2 following a revised 2.6% (previously 2.2%) contraction in Q1. The rand spiked above R15.50 to the US dollar in the aftermath of the GDP data release. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) will closely monitor the weakness in the rand, as well as for how long this weakness persists, since it presents upward risks to the SARB’s inflation forecast. Prolonged weakness to the rand could lead to inflation breaching the SARB’s inflation target band, the result of which would be a monetary policy tightening cycle which would put further pressure on economic growth. Should the SARB move in this direction, which the market is currently expecting and pricing in, the Bank of Namibia will have to follow suit because of the currency peg. Such monetary tightening in Namibia would be a further drag on the fragile economic recovery we are experiencing at present.