The numbers in the 2020 budget may have been straightforward, as Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane suggested, but the impacts at multiple levels — political and social — are definitely not. The burden of adjustment has largely fallen on two areas: public sector wages, and transfers to municipalities and provinces.

The former has been spoken about at length, so I wish to dedicate my attention to the latter. In considering this, it is helpful to reflect on what informs the allocations to municipalities, particularly conditional grants linked to service infrastructure — especially infrastructure that ensures the lights stay on, the taps have running water and the sewers don’t overflow on untarred streets.

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