Friday, 1 August 2014


No one has yet actually spotted the bear in the camp site. But the evidence that he is close is mounting up and some of the more nervous campers are rolling up their sleeping bags and stamping on the campfire embers getting ready for a hasty exit. The markets around the world reported an astonishing range of different experiences in July. Russia and Germany both posted fair sized pull backs - though perhaps for very different reasons. Hong Kong and China both polled better than 5%. In SA the fellows down in the Cape of Storms were obviously too busy bailing out their offices to pay much attention to the market and the JSE All Share ended the month less than 1% up.
The jumpiness has become very evident  in the last few days when this index both set a new high (above 53300) and then plunged almost 3%. It is the resources shares which are responsible for most of the damage. Historically on the JSE, August is the month in which some of the most extreme performances have been experienced. A few readers may recall the 30% collapse in August 1998 and fewer still the 17% rise in August 1982. Records are set to be broken! However please don’t put too much money on the upside record being threatened in 2014.
Other numbers which allowed the scribblers to fill a few column inches were unemployment, inflation and the trade gap. This last is one of the more volatile of the monthly statistics that really tell a useful story only after heavy long term averaging. Unfortunately it is clear that we are not managing to grow the value of our exports very much at all while our demand for shiny and new stuff made by foreigners is insatiable. The reasons for the results on both sides of this equation are numerous and often complicated.
Ensuring that our exceptionally fine network of national roads is maintained and extended ought to be a task that is done quietly, competently, and more or less invisibly. Distressingly, however, our outfit with that responsibility, SANRAL, appear to be unable to do anything without a great deal of fuss. The e-tolling debacle in Gauteng looks as if it may infect the Western Cape, but no one is allowed to know because it is all a great secret. Clearly money flowing in unusual directions must be at the heart of the mess. It really is time for the fuel levy to be ring fenced in the National Revenue Fund so it can be  channelled to the purposes for which it is raised. It must not be used to help fund events like a R200 000 fly past at an inauguration.
Isn’t everyone being rather too casual about the 87 000 ounces of gold which a new accounting system at Rand Refinery allegedly managed to obliterate?  The implication is that the old accounting system was frankly useless and now the shareholders (the four big gold mining businesses) have obligingly filled the hole with R1.2bn in cash. Perhaps they hope that the next accounting system will find the gold and refund their money?
Another accounting wonder concerns the R7bn profit reported by Eskom accompanied  by incessant whining that they are not allowed to charge enough to cover their costs for the electricity they supply. Why do the simple sums never add up?
Gracefully I accept that the Proteas are back as Number One Test Playing Nation and that the Aussies should be sending the Mace back home where it belongs as soon as possible. However the Sri Lanka two-match series was not really satisfying and the Proteas need to notch up some proper victories in much longer series. In the meantime didn’t those Sevens fellows do well in Glasgow? The best part has been the New Zealand press grumping about the whole affair.
James Greener
International Girlfriend Day