27 February 2014

South Africa: Budget Speech 2014 - We Have a Good Story to Tell You, and We're Not Rocking the Boat!


In what might well be Pravin Gordhan's final budget speech for the South African government - by the end of it he was giving his thanks and best wishes to almost everyone he'd ever worked with - Gordhan gave a full-scale review of the country's economic fortunes, together with the government's spending and taxing plans.

But this was more than just a technocrat's speech, with its long recitation of budget lines and changes in the tax code - although those were all there too. It was a careful balancing of financial and political realities.

It seemed structured to be deeply mindful of two critically important variables. First, South Africa exists in the midst of some seriously troubling economic times, despite the slow global recovery from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. And second, as a budget, it has been rolled out just ahead of a national election.

This time around, besides the now-usual yipping from the pro-business Democratic Alliance, the political landscape now also features an increasingly assertive challenge from the left to the country's now-prevailing ANC's political-economic orthodoxy.

Although he offered the promise of a "new economic order", Gordhan's budget was, simultaneously, a thoroughly ...

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