The Constitution of South Africa, with its progressive realisation of justiciable socio-economic rights, is fundamentally transformative, and places a number of stringent requirements on the public finance management system to support that agenda. Furthermore, within the government and governance parameters set by the Constitution, a number of strategic orientations for the role of the state are possible, including the developmental state, which may place additional requirements on the public finance management system. This paper explores the implications for the public finance management system of the South African government’s aspiration to become a developmental state, as articulated in the newly released National Development Plan 2030: Our future – make it work (South Africa. National Planning Commission 2012). It concludes by delineating an analytical framework through which progress with budget reforms can be assessed, encompassing not only its technical dimensions, but also leadership and governance.