So the finance minister tables an October budget with an even worse debt trajectory than his June budget and an even higher risk that plans to stabilise the debt will be derailed by labour. Yet, far from fleeing in horror, investors greet it with equanimity. This week's budget now sees the debt stabilising at 95% over a five-year time frame compared to the 87% over three years in June's active scenario. And though the total in cost cuts required to get there is less over-ambitious than in June, it depends a lot more heavily on steep cuts to the wage bill over the next three years. If the current year is included, the Treasury is now targeting R460bn of savings over a four-year period, R310bn of it from a public sector wage freeze.

With tough public sector wage negotiations due to start only next year, hardly anyone is convinced those cuts will be achieved. Nor does the government have a fabulous track record of delivering on the fiscal consolidation it has promised year after ...

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