Friday, 10 July 2015


Yet again it’s wonderful to watch the efforts of officials who believe that mere citizens don’t know what’s good for them. This time it’s taking place on the Shanghai stock exchange where sellers are so keen to exit their holdings that they are outdoing each other by making ever lower offers. Buyers naturally are holding back to see what happens but this is alarming the people who think their status and positions empower them to know better. It has been rumoured that sellers are being threatened with arrest! Several other markets have felt the warm breath of the bear on their necks and the Dow is pretty much at its low point for the year. Adding to the joyous mix is the fact that the New York exchange went off line for a while with a “technical glitch” which the easily excitable have claimed is evidence of a computer hack. The JSE has seen some fairly epic swings this week, but is still more than 5% up for the year, although some traders will be in the burned fingers ICU this weekend.
The fact that the Greek debacle sets and then duly misses so many absolutely final deadlines for resolution simply shows that no one has any idea what to do next. As is the case in almost every financial disaster, lenders are confronting the awful truth that they have lent far too much money to borrowers who now have neither the resources nor the intention to repay it. There can never be a mutually satisfactory solution in this situation and the sad thing is that all the grave comments about this being a lesson for the future will not prevent the next one. Spending money you don’t have is a wonderful pastime and in recent years imprudent lenders (banks) have far too often been rescued by governments using (prudent) taxpayer’s money. The Greek situation runs across national boundaries which complicates things enormously.
So far there has been no answer why The Jacob G Zuma Foundation appears to be sponsoring a sport as exotic and removed from South Africa as battery powered racing cars. Obviously there must be exciting financial flows for someone and a bet that our president is a beneficiary is likely to be a far better call than the favourite in last weekend’s Durban July horse race.
Buried in the unsurprising story about utter failure of an expensive scheme to train municipal ward committee members how to do their job, is a reference to the poor catering. It seems that as well as funding the classes, ratepayers were feeding the people attending the course. However, insufficient and bad food was a reason for the poor attendance and disappointing results of the scheme. Nevertheless, those who have stuck it out can expect to receive a certificate, which is more than the chief engineer of the passenger rail company can produce. A witness aboard the inaugural celebratory demonstration run of the new and very expensive imported train set reported that the locomotive damaged the overhead power lines because it may be higher than regulation. The chief engineer, who up to that point had been boasting of his team’s role in designing the shiny new kit, is now under investigation for perhaps not being all that he claims.
Strike season is upon us, although so far incidence and effects have been minimal. The least momentous, however, will probably be the threatened industrial (?) action by the 2 039 headman in KZN. These worthies cost the taxpayer R171m a year and it is unclear exactly what work it is that they will stop doing if and when they carry out their threat to strike. Allegedly their importance lies in their ability to deliver suitably compliant and instructed voters to the ballot boxes at election time.
At least I don’t have to choose which cap and jersey to wear when joining the braai to watch the ‘bokke this weekend. Tens of thousands of expert amateur selectors and coaches will be offering opinions on the team as this is the first run for the national side in a year that peaks with the World Cup. My cardiologist has suggested that I exercise restraint and imbibe only herbal tea. Well hops are a herb.
James Greener
10th July 2015 (which is celebrated in Liverpool as Beatles day!)