It is paradoxical that just as SA’s public finances are at their weakest since the 1980s, the government must step in to provide economic stimulus, support private firms and substantially expand social welfare spending.

It upends the thinking that has dominated conventional criticism of the Treasury and government since 2012, which has been that it should contain spending, consolidate debt and move towards a smaller role for the government in the economy. But right now it is only governments that can do what is required, and without them the social and economic consequences are too dire to contemplate...

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