South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. File Photo: ANA

“In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens opens with:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity… we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

"So too is the present time. As a country, we stand at a crossroads. We can choose a path of hope; or a path of despair. We can go directly to Heaven, or as Dickens so politely puts it, we can go the other way.

"For ordinary South Africans, it has become a difficult time. Administered prices, such as electricity and fuel, have risen. Unemployment is unacceptably high. Poor services and corruption have hit the poor the hardest.

"Under the leadership of our President, and much like the central character in A Tale of Two Cities, we have, as a country, chosen the difficult path of redemption.
The Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement is a central part of our planning as a country. It is designed to outline how we spend scarce resources for the benefit of all South Africans.

"This Policy Statement provides us with an opportunity to take stock of the strides we have taken in the year. We do this in a data driven way, providing credible evidence to judge our collective performance as a society. 

"However, it is more than a set of numbers, reams of data, charts, graphs or words. Our performance should be measured by whether people are gainfully employed, whether our children are learning in decent schools, and whether we have health care facilities that are up to standard," reads Mboweni's speech in part.