Friday, 23 January 2015


At a ratio of nearly 27 barrels of oil for a single troy ounce of gold – a millennial high – prospects for our gold rich, oil poor nation should be amazing. Instead, however, we are wondering how to keep the lights on, the national airline solvent, the broadcaster honest and the citizenry from attacking each other. The most recent spur to the financial excitement, which includes rising prices of both share and bonds, was the announcement by the European Central Bank that they are unspooling the fire hoses and will be spraying money into every corner of the euro zone at a staggering rate of 60 billion euros a month for at least 18 months. Just 1 week of that would wash away our fiscal deficit! The majority opinion is that this massive intervention is a good thing, but the price of gold, especially in euros, has risen sharply. Does this suggest that some folk feel safer in a hard asset?
Meanwhile over in Zurich, the Swiss Central Bank chose to give up pretending that it knew what the right price of its currency should be and turned that job over to the markets,. This brave and good move was quite unexpected and resulted in several speculators becoming seriously holed below the water line and sinking without trace in minutes. Let this be a warning for those who feel tempted to respond to the breezy invitations to become a currency trader that appear in our media from time to time.
The Davos extravaganza is becoming rather annoying. If the advice, opinions and solutions offered there by the allegedly intelligent and powerful were any good, the condition of the global economy would improve with each passing year. Instead, it most definitely does not. Taxpayers and shareholders are of course footing the bill for the politicians and executives who feel that a snowy background confers gravitas to their waffle. Carefully timed for this shindig, a well known charitable organisation barely managed to hold back the tears while announcing that their research has revealed that rich people own far more stuff than poor people. Just identifying this astonishing and unsuspected inequality was not enough, however, and it naturally triggered an avalanche of demands that governments must redistribute wealth and tax every one and everything into submission.
This proposal of course makes the completely erroneous assumption that politicians are the best and most effective people to spend money that other people have earned. It is interesting to note that really rich people seem to prefer setting up their own charitable foundations rather than simply pay more tax and trust the bureaucrats to make sure it reaches the right places. Nevertheless there are plenty of rich folk ambling around Davos at the moment and every mendicant and his agent is desperate to get an invitation to attend to make their pitch. Number 1 is there together with the wife who made the most credible claim for looking good in skiing kit. Our delegation includes half a dozen cabinet ministers, at least one of whom has been on TV gravely explaining that the Eskom team decided to save money and not attend the jamboree! Has it dawned on someone that there are far more important things to do back home?
At last we are going to be given sight of the list of the 204 National Key Points which hitherto had been deemed confidential. We know that the president’s private residence, swimming pool and cattle kraal is on the list but there are bound to be surprises. Aside from ports, dams and power stations (if working) there’s probably not all that much else we would miss if they fell into enemy hands. Hopefully a few breweries and wine cellars will be listed as indeed should be Ellis Park, the venue for our historic victory over the All Blacks in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final.
For someone who was at the unforgettable “438” defeat of Australia at the Wanderers in 2006 it was just a tad sad to see that record shattered this week. Oh wouldn’t it be great if the Proteas carried this form through to world cup starting next month? And also starting very soon is the Super Rugby series. Nearly unthinkable in this present heat though.
James Greener
Friday 23rd January 2015