Hilary Joffe Columnist

It will be finance minister Tito Mboweni's first national budget. It may also be his last, assuming he was serious when he told a roomful of economists last month he wouldn't be coming back after the election. But if he had hoped to leave a positive legacy, he may have discovered in his short tenure that the state of SA's public finances is too dire for any such ambition, with an at least even chance that the budget this week could be the one to trigger the long-feared downgrade by rating agency Moody's. Mboweni had hardly put his feet under the finance ministry desk when he had to present an October medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) that showed growth was expected to be weaker, tax collections would fall well short of February's forecasts, the deficit had deteriorated sharply and the public debt ratio would worsen more than previously expected and would take longer to stabilise. But if the MTBPS was little more than a holding operation, markets had expected that tough dec...

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