If you had R1-trillion would you give it to the Treasury to manage? It’s excellent on maintaining budget discipline — it spends a lot of time testing programme proposals, identifying risks and saying no. But in terms of mandated outcomes, SA hasn’t achieved truly inclusive growth in large part because the budget process militates against disruptive programmes. And while the vast regulatory complex of spending controls and audits stops a lot of fraud and corruption, it has hardly proved to be foolproof. In effect, the strength of the budget process is also its weakness. Its guardrails against risk prevent big, stupid programmes but also block major innovation. Fundamentally, in a democracy it’s a problem when the budget simply blocks voters’ demands rather than generating smarter ways to meet them. Ultimately the question is whether  we can make the budget process more responsive to national needs without undermining its strengths. The budget process is a bidding system, with governm...

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