Pravin Gordhan cautious about nuclear deal

The national treasury will only spend money on projects – such as the controversial nuclear deal – if it has the money, incoming Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said on Monday.

Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria, the minister spoke with confidence to a flurry of questions on the nuclear deal – which Cabinet approved in principle last week.

Asking the journalists not to be “clouded by your own anticipation”, he said he was clear that “we will act in a fiscally responsible way, we will only spend money we have … and spend money as we get more”.

Gordhan said this had also been the view of his predecessor, Nhanhla Nene, who was fired last Wednesday. It was believed that the nuclear deal and the financial problems of SAA were behind his ousting.

Comparing the fiscus to the budget of a family at Christmas, Gordhan explained that there may be demands for “A, B and C”, but when was was prudent – as the government intended to be – you can do without one or more of these elements. “When you get the money you can think about spending it.” 

At the start of the briefing, Gordhan said the national treasury’s expenditure ceiling “is sacrosanct”, and that there would be expenditure “only if we raise extra revenue”.

The aim was to stabilise South Africa’s debt in the medium term. Any revenue raising opportunities would be considered carefully. This would be done in such a way that it did not damage growth “or affect the poor negatively”. 

Donwald Pressly is the editor of the Cape Messenger

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