Mfuneko Toyana, Business Maverick, 15 August 2021, photo credit: Business Day
The new minister’s most pressing challenge is whether the Treasury will use the juicy tax revenue windfall from the boom in commodity prices to fund expansionary policies, like a universal basic income grant.
Incoming Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, in his first interaction with local and international investors anxious to gauge which way the ex-trade unionist will bend economic policy, at least twice invoked the name of South Africa’s longest-serving finance minister, Trevor Manuel, a hint that the Treasury’s vice grip on spending is unlikely to slacken.
Manuel became South Africa’s first black finance minister in 1996, and went on to serve under four different presidents in a 13-year run that involved many clashes with labour and civil society, as he ruthlessly pursued debt and deficit reduction via strict fiscal controls. But Manuel was also feted as the visionary who modernised the Treasury and ushered in the country’s longest and fastest period of economic growth.