South Africa was riding the crest of a commodities boom, tax revenue had grown at an annual average of 17% over the previous three years. A strong revenue trend and declining debt-servicing costs defined the state of the fiscus, providing room for the government to invest and modernise services and infrastructure. The state's debt interest costs had continued to fall as a share of GDP. Savings on interest after 2001 had provided an additional R33-billion a year to spend on services and infrastructure. Fast forward a decade later and almost exactly to the day Manuel's latter-day counterpart, Pravin Gordhan, is expected to deliver a sobering judgment on just how different a place the world has become. There is no budget surplus, rather a focus on reducing a deficit, which speaks of a country spending more than it produces. China's insatiable demand for everything coming out of Africa had reached its limits. It's a position that bears resemblance to the European sovereign-debt crisis, ...

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