After the initial positive reaction to the 2023 Budget Review, a narrative has developed that the Treasury’s treatment of the R254bn Eskom debt takeover hides the true fiscal position and risks. Fellow columnists Claire Bisseker and Mamokete Lijane have made this point on these pages. In my view they are seeing the minute trees of the accounting treatment and miss the forest of the big fiscal, economic, social and national security risk posed by Eskom’s debt and its inability to supply energy consistently to the country.

Their view is echoed by the former Treasury deputy director-general for the budget office and now adjunct professor at Wits, Michael Sachs, as well as another former Treasury official who was responsible for modelling and forecasting, Owen Willcox. I have not seen this opinion expressed in public by Willcox, but his name comes up every time I questioned the narrative. Although it seems there are several economists who share this view, the reasoning for their c...

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