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It has taken a decade of fiscal decline to arrive at this point, but the October 2020 medium-term budget has finally forced the government’s hand, making it impossible for SA to continue to avoid its fiscal reckoning or ignore the hard decisions that go to the heart of what it means to be a developmental state.

Though some have decried the softening of the fiscal stance since June — budget cuts will now be spread over five years, not three, meaning SA’s debt ratio will stabilise at 95% in fiscal 2025, not 87% in fiscal 2023 — this doesn’t amount to wholesale capitulation by the National Treasury...

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