WATCH LIVE | What will Tito do? Mboweni delivers maiden budget speech

Editor's Note: This livestream is due to start at 2pm

24 October 2018 - 12:00 By TimesLIVE

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni faces an unenviable balancing act in his maiden mid-term budget statement Wednesday, trying to reconcile the need to take control of sky-high public debt with calls for more spending ahead of the 2019 election.

The statement is expected to disclose details of the R50-billion economic stimulus and recovery plan that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on September 21.

The plan included a promise to "reprioritise" spending towards activities with the greatest impact on growth and job creation, as well as a package of reforms designed to boost investment and growth.

Mboweni's first budget speech comes at a time when SA's sovereign bonds are rated junk by two of the three major rating agencies, with Moody's the only one that has maintained an investment-grade rating.

The former central bank governor was appointed as finance minister on October 9 following Nhlanhla Nene’s resignation over his meeting with the controversial Gupta family.

He would have had hardly a week to get up to speed on a host of budget information before the cabinet had to sign off on the budget by last week. He would not have been able to influence the numbers, which emerge from a lengthy process that starts in June each year in which the Treasury engages with departments over spending allocations and agrees the three-year budget projections with a ministerial committee and ultimately the cabinet.

While some analysts do not expect anything dramatic, they agree that Mboweni’s “immense experience and gravitas” will hold a lot of clout. But unions are staunchly opposed to austerity policies or laying off government workers from the bloated civil service or ailing state-owned companies.

In an unprecedented move, Mboweni also asked citizens on social media for tips on what they would like to see coming out of his debut budget. Education, the public sector wage bill and the crisis in public health care are also among the key issues expected to be dealt with.

- additional reporting by AFP

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