Tito Mboweni not budging on printing money to plug deficit on way to wartime levels

By Prinesha Naidoo

(Bloomberg) – Faced with a budget deficit that’s likely to reach wartime levels, South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is rebuffing suggestions that the central bank help plug the hole.

South Africa’s budget shortfall is forecast to exceed 10% of gross domestic product in the fiscal year through March 2021 as restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus weigh on economic activity and sap tax revenue. The largest gap on record was 11.6% of GDP in 1914, followed by 10.4% in 1940.

Mboweni, a former central bank governor, said on Twitter that he is against printing money and wants the South African Reserve Bank to remain independent. His comments came after Enoch Godongwana, the ruling African National Congress’s head of economic transformation, suggested that the bank help finance development and infrastructure through the creation of a R500bn ($29bn) fund, while Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo has said he would support direct central bank purchases of government debt.

With GDP set to contract the most in at least four decades, pressure on the Reserve Bank to play a bigger role in bolstering the economy is increasing. However, it has ruled out paying for government spending through loans.

“It would blur the lines between an independent central bank and publicly-elected office bearers,” Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo said in a conference call on Tuesday. “If we were to finance government directly, there would be no pressure on government to manage their costs in any way.”

(Visited 1,352 times, 1 visits today)