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State-Building in South Africa after Apartheid: The History of the National Treasury

The National Treasury is a pivotal institution in South Africa’s governance landscape. Portrayals of the Treasury are often polarized: where some see an exceptional institution that stands “head and shoulders” above other government departments and which has long held the line against reckless state expenditure, others see an elitist institution which imposes top-down austerity and restricts a genuinely developmental agenda. What is less often interrogated is the institutional history of the National Treasury, and how it came to occupy such a powerful position in the post-apartheid era. In this paper, we look to contextualize the emergence of the Treasury, beginning a study into the institution’s longer history.