It’s not just our own poor little runt that is taking a hit. There is a global shift into the US currency. Everyone’s money is losing ground to the US dollar. The reason for this flight is uncertain. It could even be a sign of approval that the USA is now showing a bit of military might in the Middle East and humanitarian sympathy in West Africa. Adding to our own woes, there is a sprightly and toothy bear at large in the JSE. The average fall this week among the top 20 is almost 5% and this includes horrors like -17% by Kumba, the iron ore miner. Reports of a slowdown in China are being cited as a reason since this would cause a decreased demand for all the minerals that we dig out of the ground to sell to them. All that is really known is that sellers of many shares are starting to queue up and the only way to get to the head of that particular line is to offer a lower price than the current front runner. When that idea catches on we will see a real bear market develop.
Aside from all the usual questions about why so many officials including the president needed to be in New York for yet another pointless talk-fest, the interesting thing to emerge from the furore about the private jet was that it revealed the existence of a sort of Treats Handbook when it comes to flying in chartered aircraft. It seems that there is a caste system for important people, who are classified from being very very, through merely very, down to not very at all. In addition to four suitcases and five coat bags, each VVIP may take 10kg of carry-on luggage, which somewhat explains the need for a muscled bodyguard among the 14 permitted passengers. The boss man gets a private bedroom and en-suite bathroom with a shower on board the plane. Somehow this is not surprising. Everyone on board can expect 4.5kg of food and drink per meal which may not be all that generous after adding the weight of a couple of bottles of Johnny Blue.
Nevertheless all these details merely confirm that we have an obscenely self-important self-indulgent and nearly self-appointed troop of leaders who are rewarding themselves with levels of comfort which greatly exceed the value they provide to their paymasters. A perfect example of this swept the story about the chartered jet into the inside pages when it emerged that the country had been entered into a deal with the Russians for something to do with nuclear power stations. Scant details offered by one side were quickly denied by the other and now the whole affair has been draped with a cloak of secrecy. This immediately confirms that right at the heart of the “deal” there is a price which is egregiously wrong. That almost certainly points to money that will flow in unusual directions. A deeply ironic twist to this tale is that the arrangement which probably involves rands counted in trillions and watts measured in gigas was likely negotiated by a man who battles with numbers that comprise more than about five digits and by a woman who is delightfully unencumbered with any technical training or experience whatsoever. Some commentators are already drawing comparisons with the notorious and still opaque arms deal of almost 20 years ago.
A similar total refusal to reveal the truth concerns the small but heavily used Virginia Airport here in Durban North. Allegedly it is to be closed and moved. Where to? There is still only one runway at the huge new King Shaka facility north of the city. Undoubtedly someone high up in the municipal structure has plans for an alternative use for the land and the secrecy indicates once again prices will be rigged and money will vanish.
I have only one flagpole and so just before the nerve-racking encounter with the Wallabies tomorrow I shall have a small ceremony to replace the Sharks flag with the ‘bok banner. Once again I am advised not to watch either and so will merely track the scores on Twitter in a quiet room.
26th September 2014.