Dr. Duncan Pieterse: Guiding South Africa’s Treasury Through Challenging Economic Waters with Chutzpah

By Raine St.Claire 

The Treasury plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s fiscal policies, economic trajectory, and financial stability. In providing strategic leadership, the Director General (DG) is responsible for reshaping the department’s organisational structure and oversees a team of experts responsible for financial management, economic analysis, and policy formulation. With a decade’s experience within the National Treasury under his belt, Dr. Duncan Pieterse, the newly appointed DG steps into one of the most demanding jobs in government.

Shaping Economic Policy

Dr. Pieterse’s journey within the Treasury began in 2013 when he embarked on his career as the director for microeconomic policy. After six years of dedicated service, he ascended to the role of deputy director general of economic policy. A noteworthy achievement in his career was his instrumental role in the development of the Eskom Debt Relief Bill. Prior to his appointment, he left a notable impact while serving as the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Asset and Liability Management (ALM).

Academic Excellence

Dr. Pieterse’s academic journey is equally impressive. He holds a Bachelor of Business Science, an MBA, and a PhD in economics, all from at the University of Cape Town. His doctoral research delved into the intricate interplay between adverse childhood experiences, educational outcomes, problem drinking, and the perpetration of violence. He further enhanced his expertise by completing a mid-career Master of Public Administration at Harvard University’s renowned Kennedy School, along with conducting research fellowships at Brown and Yale Universities in the United States. Between 2004 and 2008, he worked as a development economist and served as a public finance consultant.

A Unique Opportunity

Dr. Pieterse sees his choice to pursue a career in the government sector, rather than potentially more lucrative opportunities in the private sector, as a unique opportunity to engage in a wide and profound range of work. He considers it a privilege, particularly within the Treasury, where he draws motivation and inspiration from the diverse tasks he undertakes, including managing wage bills, overseeing stateowned enterprises, formulating macro forecasts, implementing structural reforms, reinforcing social protection, and instituting employment tax incentives.

Championing Fiscal Responsibility

Dr. Pieterse strongly condemns the frequent bailouts extended to state-owned entities. During a session with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts in March this year, he voiced criticism in disclosing that R330-billion had been allocated to keep these entities financially afloat since 2013.

Bringing Credibility and Expertise to the Position


Dr. Pieterse is highly regarded in the financial market sector and offers invaluable strategic guidance to the department’s organisational structure. He will manage a team of experts who handle various aspects of financial management, economic analysis, and policy formulation. While the fiscal deficit has shown positive trends, the latest growth forecasts for 2023 hovering around a modest 0.3% is indicative of the challenge facing the new DG and his commitment to advancing economic growth in alignment with the Finance Minister’s vision. “He is central to shaping the fiscal policies, economic direction, and financial stability of the country,” Minister Godongwana said. “I believe Duncan has more than enough experience, expertise, and chutzpah to make a success of this new challenge.”

Embracing the Profound Challenges

Since his September appointment, Dr. Pieterse has wholeheartedly engaged with the intricacies and demands of his demanding role. He has fully embraced the substantial responsibility of confronting the formidable challenge of navigating an economy marked by sluggish growth. He is currently conducting a joint review with the Presidency on government configuration and programmes, aimed at potential reductions to sustain the R350-a-month social relief grant while addressing declining revenue.

Additionally, Dr. Pieterse is focused on rethinking the fiscal framework at the National Treasury due to lower-than-forecast revenue, increased borrowing, and ongoing low growth. He emphasises the importance of exploring alternative measures, particularly growth-enhancing reforms in sectors like electricity and freight logistics. Furthermore, Dr. Pieterse is overseeing a review of Eskom’s coal fleet through VgBE (The European technical association for power and heat generation), with an emphasis on improving skills, maintenance, and procurement outcomes to enhance the performance of state-owned companies.

Recognising the need for Eskom to engage the private sector in grid investments, given the utility’s financial limitations, initiatives in this regard are under consideration, with potential updates in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement.

Source: South African Government | Engineering News | Daily Maverick | News24

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