South Africa: Presidency Displaces Treasury As the Heartland of Economic Policy

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tables the 2020 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, October 28, 2020.

The economic recovery plan reveals how President Cyril Ramaphosa has absorbed economic policymaking into the Union Buildings.

The recent launch of the economic recovery plan heralded a key political shift: economic policy has moved to the Presidency from the National Treasury.

There is no rift between Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and President Cyril Ramaphosa, but it is further evidence of how the levers of control are being centralised in the Union Buildings.

Ramaphosa's high-level Economic Advisory Council is an instrument used by many modern leaders around the world, but it also suggests a kitchen Cabinet with increasing influence over economic policy direction.

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The council is a progressive one and the impact of its thinking is clear: Harvard University's Professor Dani Rodrik, for example, has researched the South African economy for Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel and his imprimatur is on the document.

So is that of Professor Mariana Mazzucato, the rock-star economist tenured at University College, London and whose work is focused on the idea of the "entrepreneurial state" - that public money has funded some of humankind's best innovations and that this power must be harnessed for a good greater than only profit.

Both Rodrik and...

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