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After the Ramaphoria, the summitting and the talking-up of government plans to revive the economy comes a dose of reality: the medium-term budget policy statement is hard to swallow. It doesn’t taste good. The most positive part of the picture is that the Treasury has avoided creating new problems by sticking to its self-imposed expenditure ceiling. That way, it is hoped, it stays on-side with credit ratings agencies and doesn’t allow the country to dig itself deeper into the dwang by taking on more debt. But that decision notwithstanding, the way the numbers in this particular budget policy statement stack up means the deficit blows out beyond the projections made in February anyway, as does the debt-to-GDP ratio. The difference in the projected stabilisation of the fiscal framework compared with the budget numbers tabled in February is profound, and was not anticipated by analysts or ratings agencies. In February it was envisaged that the budget deficit would come in at 3.6% in 20...

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