Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Thursday stressed the role that the National Treasury had to play in setting sound economic policy for South Africa, at the best times, by law, and as it battles a recession deepened by the Covid-19 crisis.
He reiterated that the Treasury had set itself the threefold objectives of lowering the budget deficit and the debt-to-GDP ratio, strengthening public finance controls and advocating for sound economic policy.
"It is our duty as stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act that the National Treasury should advocate for sound economic policy in the Republic of South Africa, and we do this by constantly engaging and debating with our colleagues in Cabinet and outside Cabinet to strengthen economic policymaking," the minister said in mini-plenary in Parliament as he opened the debate about his department's budget vote.
Mboweni is seen as frequently at odds with and openly frustrated by policy objectives set by colleagues in the ruling African National Congress.
He notably expressed a preference for closing South African Airlines, before falling in line with Cabinet support for trying to rescue the national carrier instead, and last week committed to mobilising funding to the tune of R10.1-billion for the venture.
He was criticised for releasing a blueprint for economic reform, long before the global crisis, which called for structural reform in South Africa. He has reiterated that these are more necessary than ever and told MPs that his deputy, David Masondo, would lead a unit within the department to co-ordinate these measures,
"We are all concerned that the pandemic has impacted so negatively on our economic performance and therefore it is one of the duties of the National Treasury to help co-ordinate a response to this crisis," he said.
"In this respect, I have requested Dr Masondo, the deputy minister of finance, to co-ordinate the government's efforts in the response to economic revival, implementing structural reforms together with our colleagues."