Friday, 13 March 2015

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN (rands per dollar?)

Just over a year ago we were all fretting that the rand might breach the 11.50/USD level. These days we are a rand worse off. Our currency at present has stalled just short of  12.40 to the USD and it doesn’t really help to say that this is mostly all about dollar strength. The euro is in fact faring far worse than us and the folks there should be bracing themselves for hordes of American tourists this summer. The All Share index is off around 2% so far this month with just the cell phone sector offering a bit of comfort. The miners are a train smash. 
Any pretensions we have to being a grown-up and serious nation must surely have been finally swept away by the events of this week. Yet another CEO of ESKOM, the power utility, has been kicked out almost before he gets to choose the new fittings for his en-suite wash-room. Number 1 put on an Oscar-winning display of hurt and puzzled ignorance of any accusations of his lamentably corrupt behaviour when he ventured back to parliament. And the official opening of a nudist beach on the south coast has run into a thicket.
Also starting to heat up is a stupid and pointless argument about the race of shareholders on the JSE. All kinds of folk have rushed into the fray waving calculators and data in support of their own view. The unexplained part is why or how anyone is able to issue any analysis broken down by skin colour. Even discarding for a moment the fact that very few shareholders are own name individuals, unless the JSE’s client broker accounting systems have changed recently, there has never been a field to record the race of a stockbroker’s client. And of course the race of an institutional account in the name of a pension fund or unit trust or an overseas bank and so on, is meaningless.
The government tripped up on a similar lack of information when it tried to interrogate the land ownership registry recently. It was unable to get the results its ideology was so sure must exist. And does the hopelessly inaccurate eNatis car registration system record the ethnicity of each vehicle owner? How would it classify rental fleets? It seems that most of our asset register systems are sensibly and agreeably blind to the matter of race.
With the rather disgraceful JSE exception of a handful of listed securities restricted (how?) to black shareholders in terms of the wealth destroying BEE schemes, all South Africans actually do have economic freedom to buy and sell any assets of their choice. Juju’s mantra has always seemed foolish when what he actually is demanding is money for himself and his supporters. But a “Give Us Money” party would result in the letters GUM on the red berets and that looks like a glue advertisement.
Who knew that a lowly wheelbarrow could attract duties as high as 32.32%? Apparently the Chinese are dumping these dumpers into our market and local manufacturers are screaming blue murder. Either the imports are flimsy rubbish unsuited to the local task of lugging crates of quarts from the bottle store, or something very odd is happening in the secret world of wheelbarrows.
It’s official. “Durban ranks as the highest city for the quality of life in South Africa.” There’s something wrong with the order of words in that boast from the mayor but the point is made. Now all we have to do is fix the rugby team. The Sharks are sinking fast.
The Proteas will meet Sri Lanka in the cricket world cup quarter-finals next Wednesday. I guess no team that got this far is a pushover and those chaps from Ceylon look very determined and hard to get out. It will be a tough match. Let’s hope AB and the lads carry us through. An unkind email doing the rounds points out that the English team is being carried by a British Airways plane to Heathrow.

James Greener
Friday 13th March 2015.