Editorial Comment on MTBPS – The small things tell an encouraging story

By Alec Hogg

It’s the little things that say so much, as I discovered when attending the pre-MTBPS “lockup” in Parliament yesterday.

In this, his third hosting of the finance minister’s six-monthly event in Parliament, Enoch Godongwana has firmly applied his personality onto the process. It provided a huge and very welcome change, raising the operation back to days of the much-missed efficiency of Manuel and Ramos.

In recent years, arrangements for those reporting on this critical event for shareholders of SA Inc (ie We the People) has deteriorated from lackadaisical to chaotic. That has now been firmly reversed.  Critically, the “lockup” starting time is back at 6am, giving those of us with responsibility to work through tomes of material time to do them a modicum of justice.

Better still, when I arrived at the appointed moment, a clutch of Treasury staff were already in attendance, bright eyed and attentive – with the material laid out at suitably spaced workstations. It’s a world away from the ‘hurry up and wait’ of, maybe 7 for 7:30, maybe 8am kick off pre-Enoch.

That seemingly small thing reflects what is happening at the far more important broader level.

The thought applied to the way the country’s finances are being allocated and managed is a breath of fresh air. It speaks to a national financial director who sees the big picture; who actually knows what is happening in his ‘business’; and what needs to be prioritised.

Admittedly, Enoch has benefitted from unexpectedly fair weather in a storm engulfing much of the world. Down here in the southern tip of Africa our fiscal sails are being filled through higher commodity prices.

Of course, it could have been much better. But still, even with Transnet’s dead hand – and strike – the mining sector delivered another large and very welcome revenue bonus for the National Treasury. That means for all of us.

Company tax delivered 75% of the R82bn in bonus revenue that Treasury received in the past six months – the revenue exceeding February’s Budget estimates. The bulk of this came from mining companies. And that despite the sector contracting by 7.3% in the six months to end June (Treasury’s office number).

All this is a powerful reminder that, despite decades of neglect and political abuse, SA’s mining companies are still able to deliver a decisive swing factor for an embattled nation. Indeed, their resilience against incredible odds reflects so much about the country’s private sector as a whole.

This resilience, that ability to cope with massive and often destructive politically-wrought change, is one of many things which keeps me upbeat about my country. Just consider for a moment the rebound potential in a normalised political environment, which beckons post 2024. Hope Springs.

For more MTBPS insight be sure to join Alec this evening at 7pm. You just need to register for the webinar here – https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2749266579740443662

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