I do not envy Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and the team at National Treasury who have their heads down preparing Budget 2021. Mboweni presents the budget in a little less than five weeks and the figures they are working with are truly scary. By the end of November 2020, South Africa's budget deficit - the difference between the country's revenue and expenditure - had reached R438-billion.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
To put it in context, that is 75% more than at the same time in 2019. This is according to National Treasury, which releases a monthly update on SA's revenue, expenditure and borrowings. By the end of the financial year, this figure is likely to be closer to R710-billion, Treasury estimates.
The difference is not because the state is necessarily spending that much more - government has been forced to slash capital expenditure left, right and centre - but because its income has fallen off a cliff.
The economic devastation wrought by the Covid-19 lockdowns means that revenue to November amounted to R692.5-billion, considerably less than the R807-billion generated by November 2019.
Expenditure, of course, continues on much the same trajectory, despite budget cuts, as...