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Finance minister Enoch Godongwana’s first medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) sent out all the right signals. In particular, the National Treasury was clear that it will resist populist pressure for unbridled spending; it remains wedded to fiscal consolidation, and it backs the urgent need for bolder reforms to boost economic growth.

If only that were enough. Unfortunately, the inability of the rest of the government to make tough decisions — whether shutting down some state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or holding firm on not hiking civil servants’ wages — casts doubt on the Treasury’s ability to restore SA to fiscal sustainability...

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