Johannesburg – Just more than a year ago, the chief worry facing small and medium enterprises was electricity outages, and now its government regulation.

Last year, Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for the SME Survey, released a few preliminary results of South Africa’s largest annual small and medium enterprise survey.

The 2015 report revealed probably the biggest shift in what SMEs considered to be the biggest external threat to their businesses.

According to Goldstuck and his team, 71 percent of respondents cited load shedding as the biggest threat their business faced.

This was almost double the amount of participants who named crime as their biggest threat, at 36 percent. Previous SME Surveys revealed that crime, the high cost of fuel and interest rates are what kept small and medium enterprise owners awake at night.

One year later, Middel & Partners wanted to know if load shedding was still the biggest perceived threat for South African businesses, and conducted a survey on its website asking visitors which factors they felt would hamper business growth in the final quarter of 2016.

While electricity supply did feature on this year’s list of perceived SME threats, it featured significantly lower, with only 17 percent of participants noting it as a threat.

So what’s the biggest threat businesses believe they face in 2016? With 21 percent of the votes, it turns out to be government regulations.

It comes as no surprise that South African SMEs feel uncertain about their business’s survival in our current economic climate. Sudden changes in policies and political positions earlier this year left a bad taste in local and international mouths, and business owners became painfully aware of their vulnerability to factors they don’t necessarily control.

On top of that, the new Black Economic Empowerment Codes of Good Practice became effective leaving most business owners in the dark, believing that the new codes could harm their business.

And then there was concern over Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s fate when he was charged with fraud, a charge that was subsequently withdrawn.

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