Former central governor now finance minister Tito Mboweni was in story-telling mood on Friday. From how much he lost in the Steinhoff collapse to how he was “bullied” in an 8.30am call to accede to the presidential “request” that he take up his latest assignment. It was vintage Mboweni, some suggested, and for the younger finance professionals in the audience it was a glimpse into the character of a man who until a few weeks ago they’d known as Cassper Nyovest’s muse. Current central bank governor Lesetja Kganyago arrived armed with a speech that was scathing in its criticism of populism and the “failure to understand [macroeconomic] constraints”. The populist solution is to start spending, Kganyago observed, and “push … demand in the economy without consideration of constraints”. These constraints, he suggested, are runaway inflation, balance of payment crises and “know-how” issues. Kganyago is correct that for societies in transition like ours, with deep structural concerns, the s...

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