The Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, will take to the podium on 22 February and present the 2017 / 2018 budget speech. The minister has so far done a commendable job ensuring that the country avoids a sovereign downgrade. The speech will likely carry the same message of fiscal consolidation that has been echoed over the past couple of years. While the MTBPS did enough to avert a downgrade at the end of last year, below potential growth and heightened risk to policy execution stemming from wage bill pressures, infrastructure underspending and a fluctuating exchange rate threaten the pace of fiscal consolidation. Furthermore, contingent liabilities (particularly from state owned enterprises), if not contained and deficit neutral, also pose risks. As such rating agencies could easily downgrade the foreign currency sovereign rating based on these factors.

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