Thankfully, a realist controls the purse of nation of pessimists
The Times Editorial; Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan might not have been able to balance the budget, but he is performing quite an impressive balancing act.
Yesterday's medium-term budget policy statement had to convey clearly that this government, for all its faults, is fiscally responsible.
And it did.
The chattering classes have been whispering that largesse this time around could be the first milestone on the road to populism. Not so.
Gordhan's plans to shrink the budget deficit seem credible. He is digging in his heels against senseless spending. And he is empowering his department to root out dodgy procurement deals.
If one reads between the lines there is even a jab at trade unions that public-sector wage increases were excessive and have probably cost jobs.
Gordhan is not pulling any punches. Ratings agencies went too far in downgrading South Africa's sovereign debt, he thinks.
The Treasury still expects growth of 2.5% in 2012; it will continue oiling the wheels to get R1-trillion invested in infrastructure over the next few years; and social spending will not decrease.
In this country a balancing act is sorely needed. Marikanas cannot be atoned for in a budget.
But a lot can be done to prevent such tragedies.
The poor need to feel that things are changing for the better.
And the rich need to feel guilty, but never unsafe.
Too many South Africans expected yesterday's budget would be some sort of declaration that everything is falling apart.
A close reading of the document reveals that it says exactly the opposite.
South Africa is a stable place with limited resources. The way the resources are allocated seems sensible.
And that might just be enough for now.