Having accumulated more than R3-trillion in public sector debt, the profligacy of the past 10 years continues to devour SA’s future. Our increasing debt repayment costs consume an ever rising share of national income, leaving less and less money to spend on our many national challenges. Debt service charges are now the fastest rising spending item on the budget: it is twice as large as our spending on post school education and roughly the size of what we spend on public healthcare.

On Wednesday, finance minister Tito Mboweni will present the 2019 medium-term budget policy statement. In a rational world, this is a document that would confront head-on the urgent task of setting public finances on a more sustainable path. But, in a world in which policymakers are both indecisive and constrained by the need to please diverse constituencies, there is every reason to fear that it might be a damp squib...

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