Mboweni: SA in the best & worst of times

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni also turned to scripture, saying just as in the Book of Isaiah, South Africans had to rise to fix their towns and streets.

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

CAPE TOWN - Tito Mboweni says he is a reluctant finance minister, but there is no going back.

Just two weeks after being appointed, he had to step up on Wednesday to deliver the 2018 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement in Parliament.

He channelled Charles Dickens, saying South Africa finds itself in the best of times and the worst of times.

Mboweni also turned to scripture, saying just as in the Book of Isaiah, South Africans had to rise to fix their towns and streets.

The former Reserve Bank governor is still struggling with coming to terms of being a minister again.

“I was doing very well in the private sector. More than well-paid, comfortable, I was free from Thursday to Monday.”

He says President Cyril Ramaphosa is an astute negotiator.

“I can tell you that I resisted to the best of my ability.”

But his resistance was futile and now there is an economy to fix.

“We are here; we have a job to do. I have an interesting deputy minister to work with. He works hard, too much energy, [he] loves me even when the situation is difficult. I haven’t gained this love from any other head of state before.”

'A LOT OF CONFIDENCE IN MBOWENI'

Some economists have expressed a sense of optimism after the finance minister delivered his policy statement.

During his maiden speech, Mboweni said he is committed to urgently fixing the mess at South African Revenue Service (Sars), clamping down on corruption and wasteful spending and to wooing the private sector to help get the economy back on track.

Mboweni also put some flesh on the bones of Ramaphosa's stimulus plan to kick-start the economy.

Nedbank economist Isaac Matshego says Mboweni's speech showed a clear commitment to stabilising government finances.

“It shows a very clear commitment to stabilising finances and stablising the South African Revenue Service. There is a lot of confidence in Minister Tito Mboweni, I think he is the right man to really take this position at this time.”

Investec economist Annabel Bishop says the budget will go a long way to lift business confidence and improve investment and economic growth.

“Going forward, the budget is quite strong, we are looking to lift business confidence and investment economic growth and [it] talks quite clearly to the need fix the corruption issues and the weakness itself that has resulted in the weakening of state institutions such as Sars."

READ: The full MTPBS

Speech by Primedia Broadcasting on Scribd

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)