Gordhan: Budget will inspire confidence in SA. Coy on nuclear.

Next month’s budget, Pravin Gordhan’s first since his re-election, is most likely going to be one of his toughest. The local economy if slowing to a standstill, the rand is in freefall, investor confidence is waning and government spending is rising. Gordhan himself seems unperturbed, saying it will inspire confidence. He will have to deal with the nuclear deal, if it goes ahead, and at what cost, while SAA is another problem child. Budget is a long way off, and given the amount of action the country’s seen in the first couple of weeks in January, a lot can change, for better or worse. – Stuart Lowman

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 15 (Reuters) – South Africa needs to make tough decisions about how it runs its finances and next month’s budget will inspire confidence in a struggling economy, finance minister Pravin Gordhan said on Friday.

South Africa has stumbled in recent months with slowing growth, a tumbling rand, rising government spending and waning investor confidence in the ability of its political leaders to revive Africa’s most developed economy.

South Africa's Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing after he was reappointed to the position on Sunday night by President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa’s Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing after he was reappointed to the position on Sunday night by President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, South Africa December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“We’ll have to make some tough decisions about how we run the finances of the country,” Gordhan told 702 Talk Radio. “I can assure you that we are working together on a budget that is credible and can inspire confidence in our country.”

Gordhan returned in December to the portfolio he held from 2009 to 2014 in a chaotic week when President Jacob Zuma sacked Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in favour of untested David van Rooyen, before recalling Gordhan after markets tumbled.

A major concern among investors is unsustainable government spending and rising public debt. An ambitious plan to build a fleet of nuclear power stations at a cost of as much as 1 trillion rand ($60 billion) has many economists worried.

When asked about the nuclear deal, Gordhan refused to be drawn on whether he supported it but stressed that South Africa would not enter into an agreement it could not afford.

“We all recognise that we can only do what we can afford. If you have 1,000 rand in your pocket, don’t pretend you can spend 2,000 rand,” he said.

Gordhan said on Thursday that South Africa would not slip into recession, rejecting predictions by some economists that sharp falls in the rand and poor growth in key sectors of the economy pointed to a contraction this year.

The rand, among the most volatile of major emerging market currencies, slumped to a record low during Asian trade on Monday on fears that China wanted to weaken its currency aggressively, though it has since recovered some ground.