South Africa: More Questions Than Answers in Tito Mboweni's Grim Emergency Budget

A South African Treasury graphic to illustrate the June 24 Supplementary Budget.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni grimly warned of a debt crisis if no action was taken. While exact numbers were put to the Covid-19 measures for, among others, small businesses, workers and vulnerable households, Wednesday's unprecedented supplementary Budget left much unanswered.

It was a mash-up of metaphors. If the emergency Covid-19 Budget, officially South Africa's first Special Adjustment Budget, were an English essay, it would be marked down. But the mixed metaphors were apt for the messiness of Covid-19 lockdown.

The metaphors ranged from the wide-open hippo mouth illustrating the gap between income and spending, the resilient aloe waiting patiently for a better time to bloom, to the Gospel-inspired passage through the "narrow gate" to life.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni pulled no stops to ram home his message - South Africa must act now to ensure bankruptcy is staved off, and deal with its debt that will hit R4-trillion in 2020.

The proper financial jargon is sovereign debt crisis, or the point at which South Africa can no longer fund its spending. Pegged to occur in 2024, Mboweni made a case for a roadmap that would prevent this scenario - debt would reach just 87.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) that...

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