Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

Cautious optimism

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PREDICTABL­Y, there was no standing ovation for Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba when he stood at the podium where President Cyril Ramaphosa had delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address to rapturous applause only days before.

Instead, Gigaba received more brickbats than roses.

To the long-suffering taxpayer, the finance minister had more pain than joy to deliver, but all for the good cause of saving our economy from sinking into a deep abyss.

Apart from the ad hominem attacks which had to do with his chequered past as home affairs and public enterprise­s minister, he cannot be accused of deviating from Ramaphosa’s agenda of renewal or killing the aura of positivity brought into being.

There were indeed echoes of Ramaphosa’s revivalist address in Gigaba’s speech.

These reinforced the growing unity and return to normality in and outside the ruling party and in and outside Parliament, even though the EFF was not there to hear him speak.

Clearly, South Africa is at work repairing and growing our economy, crafting a better life for all and the just and prosperous society we desire.

Gigaba’s speech also marked a return to the sobering realities of the massive problems that persist in our country and the real-world economy to which we belong, underscore­d by the hawk-eyed global credit ratings agencies.

Unemployme­nt, poverty and inequality will remain with us for some time to come and, sadly, the options in tackling them while keeping public finances healthy are limited, as the Budget showed.

No matter how good or bad the Budget was, we cannot argue that tough decisions had to be taken.

Whether or not Gigaba made all the right decisions, after Budget day the country eased forward, with little doubt public finances and the economy were now being handled with the necessary prudence that would eventually get us out of the boggy marsh of low growth associated with corruption, wastage, reckless politics and other self-made problems that set the country back gravely in the past decade.

It may be too early to say whether South Africa is going to be all right, as Gigaba put it, quoting US rap artist Kendrick Lamar’s song, but we are on the right path.

And Ramaphosa continued to stoke the furnaces of our newfound hope this week with his pledge to make job creation his weekly focus.

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