SA's public finances are in a dire state. There are four main reasons for this.
First, economic growth is low. Second, tax revenue collection is repeatedly below forecasts. Third, debt levels have risen rapidly and are now at their highest levels in the post-apartheid era. Fourth, the poor performance of state-owned enterprises is necessitating large-scale government support.
Recent developments since the tabling of the 2019/20 budget in February have only made the situation worse.
A downgrade of government debt to "junk" status by a third ratings agency will lead to an outflow of investment and exacerbate matters further. Fortunately for SA, this has not yet happened.
The state of SA's public finances is the outcome of different dynamics in three overlapping periods. The first was the period after the 2008 global financial crisis. The second was the period under Jacob Zuma's presidency. And the third has been the period since Cyril Ramaphosa took over.
Careful consideration of these periods contradicts widely circulated claims in the political space.
Some have claimed SA's woes began with Zuma, but this is not true. They started with the the global financial crisis. Others have claimed Zuma is not responsible for the poor economic and public finance performance, but this is also not true. SA's performance should have been able to recover to a much greater degree than it did under Zuma.