South Africa: Budget 2019 - Expect a Harsh Reality Check Amid Eskom Crises and Strained Public Finances

President Cyril Ramaphosa with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni ahead of the Budget 2019 Speech.

The 2019 Budget is a precarious juggle that brings together Eskom's financial and other crises, expenditure pressures to appease constituencies in an election year, and a range of financial indicators that are dour, at best.

But if there is a finance minister to deliver a reality check between what's actually in the public purse against election-year wish lists, it's Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. Known not to shy away from stating publicly what must be said, never mind the politics, his maiden Budget on Wednesday is likely to deliver some hard truths.

Eskom. While Wednesday's Budget will include a whole range of important information - yes, sin taxes will go up and smokers and drinkers must dig a little deeper into their pockets - the financial woes of the power utility is front and centre because it is the biggest risk to the South African economy. Whatever the Budget wants to do elsewhere, whether bettering schooling, particularly early childhood learning, or in supporting manufacturing expansion through incentives or agriculture and land reform in times of drought, it can only do so after dealing with the Eskom wretchedness.

Everyone has kicked the can down the road to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. That...

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