A Wits student has walked off with R150 000 in his pocket, for writing an essay that tackled thorny problems Finance Minister Tito Mboweni faced in his Budget speech this year.
Titled "Disciplined Fiscal Policy: Does such exist in South Africa? Why not and what can be done?", Masters student Baneng Naape's 3 733-word essay discussed South Africa's fiscal credibility, and ways in which it could be strengthened.
The Nedbank Old Mutual Budget Speech essay competition, now in its 47th year, is held annually in an attempt to find the country's brightest young economic minds.
Each year, an essay question is posed to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in economic streams at recognised South African institutions.
Naape was the winner in the postgraduate category.
Also gaining top honours in the competition was University of Cape Town undergraduate student Caleb Qoyo, who won first place and R60 000 in the undergraduate category for his essay "Bitcoin - the financial system’s benign tumour: An evaluation of the systemic risk posed by cryptocurrencies".
Qoyo argued that, based on the current understanding of the causes of financial crises, cryptocurrencies do not pose a systemic risk.
The first runner-up in the postgraduate category was Bianca Fisher of the University of Johannesburg, who won R100 000, and the second runner-up in the postgraduate category was Caleigh Brink, who won R50 000.
The first runner up in the undergraduate category was Andre Lourens of the University of Pretoria, who won R40 000, and the second runner-up was Makhotso Pulumo of Monash University, winning R20 000.
Penning an award-winning economic essay required a great deal of research, said Naape, who aspires to be among the best public sector economists in South Africa.
"I read as many articles as possible related to fiscal credibility, then had an idea of what fiscal credibility entails. I paid attention to structure, content and arguments and displayed unique creativity," Naape said.
The competition organisers said they believed the large cash prizes were worth it if it meant encouraging bright ideas among the country's budding economists.
"Because the possibility exists that the fruit of this competition could be an idea or innovation that could change the course of South African economic history, we offer generous cash prizes," they said.
The winning essays can be accessed on the competition website.