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SA was shocked when Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba tabled a mammoth and unexpected national budget deficit of R50bn for the 2018 fiscal year in his maiden 2017 mid-term policy statement. While the minister and his budget team at the Treasury are pondering fiscal plans to plug the gaping budget hole left by the underperforming economy, developments on the municipal water debt front may compel them to cast the net wider in finding additional resources. It is becoming increasingly clear that municipalities are undergoing severe financial strain, whether genuine or superficial, worsened in part by the dire local economic conditions. Worrying reports of a growing inability by municipalities to settle bulk water supply bills to the tune of R10bn have emerged, followed by appeals for payment and later requests for debt relief. The water debt payment crises occur amid another protracted and relentless process of recovering municipal bulk electricity supply bills, to which the Eskom financia...

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