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It’s a month too late, but Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba looks like he has finally pulled out all the stops. President Jacob Zuma’s plan for free higher education for poor and middle-income families has been sent back to the drawing board. Back on the table are the plans Treasury originally put to the Cabinet and the presidential fiscal committee before the medium-term budget policy statement on how to salvage SA’s fiscal framework. Zuma’s higher education plan, which aimed to provide free tertiary education for families on annual incomes of less than R300,000, required R40bn in expenditure cuts. For two weeks, Treasury officials, assisted by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, worked to find the funds, putting school building programmes, municipal infrastructure, passenger rail transport and provincial roads on the chopping block. What officials should have been doing was cutting R40bn from the spending plans in the budget, which is required to...

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