Friday, 19 June 2015


The markets are pretending that they have recovered from the visit of the small but ill-tempered bear and only the rand / pound sterling exchange rate chart hasn’t reversed. Surely it can’t just be rugby fans preparing for their trip to the soggy island for the World Cup who are selling rands and buying pounds in such quantity? Barclays must be pondering their purchase of ABSA. So far, however, no large international bank has yet listed South Africa among the regions where they are withdrawing so they must making money here still.
Understanding the Greek situation is easy. One side has run out of money, the other has run out of patience. The various forecasts of what happens next are going to be tested. The answer is probably “not much”. Lenders are going to get IOUs instead of money and Greek citizens expecting a steady flow of pensions, salaries and hand-outs will likely be very disappointed. But it is likely that the euro will survive for a while longer, mainly because the European Central Bank has chosen to do something it’s not supposed to do and print money. For millennia this has been the remedy adopted by the rulers of empires and it will work this time too. The interesting question is: Which nation will be next? There are many candidates.
Once again Eskom has become the centre of attention with the publication of their argument in support of massive price rises. Several analysts have pounced on the numbers and gleefully demonstrated flawed assumptions, simple errors and perhaps even misleading nonsense. Here in Durban domestic consumers are paying just over R1.15 per kilowatt hour, a tariff which is 80% higher than 5 years ago. Eskom claims that the cost of the same amount of power from the woefully behind schedule and exorbitantly expensive new coal fired power stations will be R1.00 so clearly there is very little margin for everyone else in the chain to be able to afford the better things in life! Unless the regulator has the clout and resolve to insist that Eskom carries out a massive clean-out of its wasteful and profligate units and practices it seems inevitable that they will be forced to allow the egregious increase. Even some politicians have begun to notice and to complain that the utility is strangling the growth out of the country, but whether they have the knowledge and skill to craft a solution to the problem is doubtful. More candles please Jeeves.
So the date by when we had to stop broadcasting TV in a way which is no longer efficient and suitable, has passed. This ranks South Africa alongside a handful of nations who are also baffled by this new technology stuff. But not to worry, the minister has assured everyone that the government is right on top of the problem. For a start, she has visited those of our neighbours who have made the internationally scheduled changeover and begged them not to “leak” their smart digital signals across the border and interfere with the electorate’s ability to watch parliamentarians behaving badly and similar soap operas on their old steam-powered televisual apparatus. Part of the delay in implementing the changeover arises from the state’s intention to woo voters with free and subsidised converter equipment. Naturally this intervention will distort the market and the parties who hope to benefit from the mispricing that will occur are squabbling fiercely. Just another day on the southern tip.
With just one SA team in the Super 15 playoffs, many of us will have to suppress our natural instincts and support the Stormers. Hopefully they won’t be overcome by the occasion like the baby ‘bokke were at their U20 World Cup semis. So the US golf chiefs decided to mark the centenary of the Great War by playing this year’s US Open on a course that resembles a battle field from that conflict. Even if you are not a golfer just take a look at it sometime this weekend. Already there have been some notable casualties. For a moment it sounded as if the Vatican were entering a team in the Tour de France. But then it turned out that an Encyclical is merely a 200 page message about the dangers of carbon dioxide.
James Greener
Friday 19th June 2015 (World Sauntering Day)