The South African Revenue Service said it would revise its trade statistics, and it has - by R23,5billion.
Sars announced yesterday that the trade deficit for 2008 was R64,5billion and not the R88,05billion it recently announced, as it revised the value of gold imports downwards by R23,5billion. It has decided not to include temporary imports of gold - for the purpose of refining - in the trade data, following criticism that these imports should not be included.
The revision means that there was a trade deficit of R1,6billion in December - and not the R9billion originally published.
Sars said yesterday that "balance of payments statistics are compiled in accordance with guidelines provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The value of goods temporarily imported or exported without a change of ownership should not be reflected as part of merchandise trade statistics".
It said 2008 imports were revised from R751,14billion to R727,6billion - while exports remained at R663,1billion.
Sars will now publish two sets of data - one that includes temporary imports of gold and another that doesn't, the latter being the official figure.
Sars said that there has been a significant increase in the quantity of gold brought into SA for refining purposes - to be taken out of the country again. The treatment of this gold was changed in July 2008 to be included in import statistics, but this would now be reversed for the official figures.
Inflation too, is not what it seemed. It has come down following a change in methodology by Statistics SA. Inflation for December originally estimated at 9,9percent, is now 8,7percent year-on-year.