In his budget speech in February, Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, with his trusty aloe ferox at his side said that 2020 was going to be a year for eating pilchards, not steak. And then came the corona virus. Covid 19 has pretty much shredded the treasury’s balance sheet and now the focus is on making sure we have access to funding to help the healthcare system cope, to help the economy cope and to still invest in growth initiatives.
To this end talks are being held with the New Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank – with a facility of $60-million being considered from the latter. “We are seeking to understand what kind of facilities they are giving us and what it means. We are leaving no stone unturned,” he said. Mboweni made it very clear that this funding was to be to be used in the fight against Covid-19 and for no other purposes – “We are not looking for budget support, we will be looking for Covid-19 specific packages to access”.
On a daily basis we are learning about the virus and what impact it is having on our society, our economy and our health care systems and now that we have begun testing in earnest, this picture will change even more rapidly. From a finance perspective Mboweni said that budget revisions were happening “almost every day” as figures are currently a “moving target”.
On Wednesday 15 April, the SA Reserve Bank’s repo rate cut of 100 basis points (one percentage point) came into effect – thereby reducing South Africa’s repo rate to 4.25%. Reserve Bank Governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said the bank now expects South Africa’s GDP to grow by 2.2% in 2021 and by 2.7% in 2022.