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Nobody likes being told what to do, least of all fund managers incentivised by performance fees to chase returns. When the spectre of prescribed assets returned to the national dialogue in 2017, it received a predictable smack-down from all the usual suspects, and was then drowned out in the noise of state-capture revelations. All went back to normal on the investment front until the recent release of the ANC election manifesto, which included wording to the effect that the ANC would be exploring the possibility of prescribing which assets financial institutions must hold. Prescription of assets was abolished 30 years ago, after it was used to prop up government finances in the last days of the apartheid government. So why is the ANC looking at this now? The truth is that government finances have been backed into a corner. After a decade of overspending, expanding the size of the government and corruption at state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the fiscus no longer has the luxury of choi...

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