VAT did he say? Here's how to see past the budget smoke and mirrors
Here are some jargon-busting pointers for the next medium-term budget policy statement
Yesterday’s medium-term budget policy statement, or as Tito Mboweni’s brief called it, “Defuse The Bomb While Clinging To The Exhaust Of The Bus You Got Thrown Under”, was full of wild generalisations, veiled threats, mathematical impossibilities, shouting, hurtful accusations, tearful apologies and doughnuts. And that was just the EFF’s before-party.
The speech itself was a relief to many, given that earlier in the week Mboweni had asked Twitter for tips on what to include in the mini-budget, making many wonder if the MTBPS would see the appointment of Bonang as commissioner at SARS, an allocation of R1bn for Fikile Mbalula to fill up the dome (any dome, really, he’s not picky) or, if you’re listening to Bought Twitter, reinstating Jacob Zuma as president, with Carl Niehaus as finance minister.
Fortunately, none of that happened in the speech. Still, many South Africans remain baffled by what exactly did happen. Which is fair: economic and financial jargon can be baffling at the best of times, and with a general election less than a year away, opaque language can become pure smoke and mirrors.
And so, in the interests of holding the powerful to account and understanding next year’s MTBPS a little better, here are some jargon-busting definitions. (Apologies to any ANC politicians reading this: I should have explained what “holding someone to account” means. Let’s talk after the elections.)
Medium -term budget: A budget you fail to stick to over the medium term rather than over the long term.
Economist: A writer of speculative fiction, whose novels are called “reports” and get read by about nine people, which, to be fair, is six more than most SA novels.
Exchange rate: The frequency with which finance ministers are replaced, affecting the strength of the rand. For example: “We were going to go on holiday this year, but the exchange rate is terrible right now, it’s like two Nenes to a Tito, so maybe next year.”
Exports: SA’s most wanted exports are Guptas and Duduzanes.
Gross Domestic Product: Jacob Zuma’s homestead at Nkandla.
Infrastructure: A jolly old man with a long white beard and red suit, riding a flying sled pulled by Treasury officials, who visits once a year just after budgets have been allocated. If you’ve been a very bad little boy or girl, Infrastructure will leave a tender in the sock at the end of your bed and you can transform from a radical socialist into an oligarch faster than you can say “a new highway between nowhere and the home of a former president”.
Surplus: Most cabinet ministers.
Trade union: A group that denounces how capitalism protects the interests of the few at the expense of the many, while protecting the interests of its members at the expense of everybody else.
VAT: Afrikaans for “take”. For example: “VAT is now 15%” translates as “Ons vat, julle kak”.
Unemployment: The biggest problem facing SA, but also the one nobody in power is willing to tackle because they fear experiencing it first-hand.