One of the National Treasury’s lesser-known publications is its annual Debt Management Report, a treasure trove of information on every instrument the government uses to borrow on the market and how its price has trended, as well as on the Treasury’s strategy to keep the costs of borrowing down and mitigate risks to the public finances and to SA’s economy. The report details the way in which the financial position of the state-owned enterprises affects the national budget as well, given the hundreds of billions of rand worth of guarantees the government has issued, particularly to entities such as Eskom and South African Airways, and the risk that those guarantees could get called on. The level of debt, the length of time before it needs to be repaid (matures), whether the debt is local or foreign and who owns it are among the crucial issues that investors and ratings agencies track to assess whether the debt level is sustainable and affordable. From the early days of democracy unti...

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