19 February 2019

South Africa: Mboweni's Task - Keep the Wheels Turning and the Lights Shining


On Wednesday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will stand up and deliver in Parliament what some believe will be his one and only Budget speech. It is his job to make the governance decisions that matter - and at a time when there is evidence of divisions between the ANC and its alliance partners.

The recent history of the National Treasury and of the Ministers who have represented it shows how important this office is to the government. While some of the pressure may have eased, the politics of the moment is no less excruciating. In juggling the books, Mboweni is likely to leave some very angry come Wednesday evening. The big problems of the day, Eskom, state-owned entities, social grants, all of it, fall under his watch.

Up until just four years ago, Budget speeches in South Africa followed a regular pattern. The Minister, whether it be Trevor Manuel, Pravin Gordhan or Nhlanhla Nene, would stand up, and speak. Then almost everyone, from across political divides, would stand up and applaud. Most people appeared to be proud of the chosen ones who led and worked at the National Treasury. They were seen as the best and brightest, people who had...

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