South Africa: Mboweni's Mini-Budget - Walking the Tightrope Between Economic Reality and Political Contestation

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Wednesday's Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, colloquially dubbed mini-Budget, is not about getting a glimmer of good news. There is little to none. It's about indications of whether the tough and unpalatable political choices to set things right are being taken.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni didn't look particularly buoyant when he closed Tuesday's parliamentary debate on the Eskom Special Appropriation Bill, the draft law that will give the troubled power utility a total of R59-billion by 2021.

"One of the things I have learnt since assuming office is that the minister of finance is burdened with having to find resources for Eskom, SAA, SA Express, Denel, Alexkor, then a huge bill for compensation of (state) employees, and many programmes that must be funded amidst an ageing and overburdened infrastructure within the context of declining tax revenue due to low economic growth," he said.

And that about captures the quandary of the 2019 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), that while announcing adjusted allocations for departments and public entities, will also signal spending and policy direction in the 2020 Budget.

Given public finances are tight and strained, tough decisions must be made. But those trade-offs and choices are heavily contested. The political contestation...

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