Make no mistake, the Budget that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivers on Wednesday 26 February is South Africa's last chance to avoid a rating downgrade by Moody's to 'junk' status. Many analysts say such a move is already priced into the markets, which begs an obvious question: Is South Africa already on the scrapheap?
Tito Mboweni has an unenviable task. In his much-anticipated presentation of the 2020/2021 Budget for the fiscal year which kicks off on April Fool's Day, he must make the case that South Africa is finally putting its fiscal house in order. At this stage, it is hard to see how he can be persuasive.
One of his top priorities will be to try to convince rating agency Moody's that South Africa is serious about cutting its debt and kick-starting a moribund economy that endured a decade of mismanagement and looting under former president Jacob Zuma.
For Mboweni, it must be galling, having watched South Africa's credit rating ascend through the coveted ranks of investment-grade status while he was central bank governor. And this was after the government paid off apartheid debt, nogal. Now he has to try to protect South Africa's last investment-grade rating, maintained by...