A lot has been made recently about the risks of rising public debt. Yet as a percentage of the GDP SA’s public debt is essentially equivalent to peer economies, and far below the 90% level that usually sets off alarms. For 2017, IMF data puts gross government debt in SA at 56% of the GDP. That compares to a weighted average of 52% for other upper-middle-income economies, excluding China. Among the Brics countries, China came in at 58%, India at 66% and Brazil at 93%. Only Russia was lower, with debt at only 20% of GDP. In SA, fiscal policy must always balance the risks of excessive debt against the equally devastating risks of undermining the fragile social pact. Social and policy cohesion, and ultimately economic growth, depend largely on the government spending to redress the extraordinary inequalities that arise out of the economy. Threats loom on either side of this balancing act. On the debt side, concerns centre on rising public borrowing after 2008. In SA, as in virtually eve...

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