South Africa: Mboweni's Poser Is Matching Wishlists & Sparse Public Finances. Spoiler Alert - Something Has to Give

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in September 2019.

Exactly what gives will be answered when Finance Minister Tito Mboweni presents the Budget on Wednesday. Worst case scenario: Snafu*.

The easy bit is to recount the numbers: 0.4% economic growth in 2019, 38.7% joblessness on the broader definition that includes those so disheartened they've given up the search for work -- and consumer and business confidence in the doldrums regardless of what measure is used.

The scary bit is to recount some other numbers. A shortfall of several tens of billions of rand in estimated tax collection -- the October 2019 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) put that number at R52.5-billion, or 4% short, and rising -- amid business failures, retrenchments and low wage increases. Billions of rand may fly SAA's way as the R5.5-billion for the business rescue process since 6 December 2019 will run out in early March 2020.

As much as the Budget is about numbers, it is much more about politics.

And the politics mean no to even a one percentage point hike to Value Added Tax (VAT). The blowback from the 2018 VAT hike to 15% was brutal, and with a municipal election in 2021 the governing ANC, which is looking to reverse two...

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