[WATCH] Tito Mboweni: Unplugged

The new Finance Minister on Cabinet size, public servants, the heist economy and his new role.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni briefs the media ahead of the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement on 24 October 2018. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Tito Mboweni is back in government, and he’s bringing with him his characteristic wry humour, and shoot-from-the-hip style.

The new Finance Minister delivered his maiden Medium-Term Budget policy Statement in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Traditionally, the Finance Minister briefs the media and takes questions from them, relating to the documents they are given early in the morning in lock-up.

It’s a slightly less formal environment, and, on Wednesday, Mboweni used it to full effect.

Here are some of the highlights from the mid-morning briefing.

MR GOVERNOR?

Mboweni served as the governor of the South African Reserve Bank between 1999 and 2009. When a journalist asked him a question, addressing him as minister, he had a different idea of how he should be titled.

YOU HAVE TO ADAPT…

Mboweni has, on several occasions, made light of the way in which he was approached for his new portfolio, implying it was less of an ask, and more of a you-don’t-have-a-choice situation, and he told journalists he’s still not quite used to being back in government.

WHERE’S THE SWEET SPOT?

Of course, this isn’t Mboweni’s first Cabinet gig – aside from being the Sarb Governor, he also served as the nation’s first Labour Minister after democracy. When asked about a soaring public sector wage bill that currently accounts for more than a third of government’s total expenditure, this is how he responded.

CABINET COLLEAGUES BEWARE!

And it’s not just the average public servant Mboweni has some views on – he also weighed in on the ideal size of Cabinet.

Currently there are 35 ministers in the executive.

NO HOLY COWS…

Mboweni reflected the need for a rethink about ailing SOEs in his speech to Parliament, but he had more to say about the matter during the briefing.

THE HEIST ECONOMY

Referencing a boost to health spending for linen and other supplies for state hospitals, Mboweni took aim at what he calls “heists”.