It was a budget that sought to balance it all: avoiding a fiscal crisis, as the finance minister put it, while protecting the vulnerable and strengthening economic growth. And it somehow managed to make the numbers look better than almost anyone had expected. But it bounced so many key decisions to February and beyond that it was hard to take a clear view on its chances of success.

It was the kind of holding operation that is probably inevitable ahead of an election year, in which the big decisions tend to be pushed out to the new administration. This election will be more tense than most. But it doesn’t make it any easier to assess how and whether the big numbers in the budget will materialise — even though, as finance minister Enoch Godongwana says, the numbers are there, with nothing hidden...

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