‘No surprises’ expected from Nene’s first budget speech

2015-02-25 10:02

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Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene will deliver his first national budget speech today after tweaking it at his home right up to the last minute last night.

Speaking at his office in Parliament yesterday afternoon – a copy of his 22-page speech in front of him – Nene said although he had been intensely involved in the budget as deputy finance minister since 2009, only now did he realise what his predecessor Pravin Gordhan got up to after the team had gone home.

Nene has gone through many drafts and refined and tweaked his speech, which he will deliver when tabling the budget this afternoon. Writing began in earnest a week ago, but he stressed it was a collaborative effort involving a team of experts who met at his home over both days on the weekend and again at his offices until 8.30pm on Monday.

The team completed the final draft yesterday, but Nene planned to go over it again last night to “refine it”.

Nene, who has extensive experience with budgets, did not expect too many surprises for the public. However, he said that people were often surprised “by what you don’t say”, and these were issues that he could not anticipate.

“It is indeed challenging times, we cannot downplay that, but we have a process and the government’s fiscal policy is transparent. The last signal was in October, when we tabled our medium term budget policy statement [last October]. This was done during a particular economic environment, with changes between then and now factored in.”

Nene warned at the time that the government needed R12 billion more to make up a shortfall for this year’s budget, and speculation was high that taxpayers would be asked to carry the cost in some way.

Nene addresses the nation in the National Assembly at 2pm.

As Nene was wished good luck when he walked through the office corridor to another engagement, he said: Thank you, I need a lot of that.”

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