UCT's Brian Kantor goes head to head with Treasury

19 February 2009 | Story by Newsroom

Tax Budget

Brian Kantor, emeritus professor of economics at UCT and an investment strategist at Investec Securities, went head to head with Keith Engel, the National Treasury's chief director of tax design, at the annual Budget Breakfast hosted by Deloitte and UCT's Graduate School of Business last week.

Firing the opening salvo, Kantor said that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had not, with depression looming, been bold enough in his 2009/10 budget presentation, increasing the Budget deficit to just 3.9%.

"We could have had a bigger deficit," said Kantor. Citing Keynesian economics - "when you face depression, deficits be damned" - he argued that the ratio of debt to GDP of about 20% is very low, while that of US stands at around 100%.

Engel countered that classical economics in a developing country is not the same as in the developed world. While it is perfectly acceptable for the "very drunk" developed world to go to the bar and ask for another drink, he said, South Africans are eyed with more caution. Would they be able to settle the tab?

"Part of the difficulty is that we get punished for doing what Keynes wanted us to do," said Engel. "Caution is needed, otherwise we run the risk of frightening off investors."

Upwards of 250 guests attended the popular breakfast event, now in its fifth year.

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