South Africa: Budget Underspending - a Case of Austerity By Stealth?

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in September 2019.
analysis

While there's much speculation about the announcements Tito Mboweni's Budget speech will bring, the Budget Justice Coalition is most concerned about the prospect of further austerity budgeting and the impact this will have on citizens. Austerity budgeting entails deliberately cutting expenditure and increasing taxes. In this article, we ask whether austerity by stealth is something that has been happening in a manner that is perhaps less obvious.

Six months after the beginning of the financial year, the Minister of Finance delivers the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) speech. The MTBPS describes the policy framework for the budget that gets announced in February the next year.

So, the October 2019 MTBPS provides some indication of what is to come in the 2020 budget. This approach to budget-making gives government departments and markets some form of stability as it provides an indication of what to expect when the budget is announced.

What is often less discussed in the public discourse is that at the same time as the MTBPS is presented to Parliament, an Adjusted Budget is tabled. The Adjusted Budget indicates any adjustments to the current year's expenditure plans that Treasury may be recommending to Parliament. Essentially, the Adjusted Budget...

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