Friday, 16 October 2015


Forget about Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton. The most influential and powerful woman in the world is Federal Reserve Bank Governor Janet Yellen. All she had to do was express the slightest reluctance to raise US interest rates and the bear has been sent packing with high-fives in dealing rooms everywhere. Well except for those who were short and whose burned fingers are all bandaged up. Because of the gyrations of a couple of big contributors to the All Share index, the reading that the market is more than 10% above its August lows is not very representative. Nevertheless there are widespread recoveries throughout the market with the mining counters doing particularly well.
The dollar is showing a tendency to weaken and so even our poor battered Rand is crawling out of the gutter a bit. It can also be remarked that a single Krugerrand will cost you now about R16 400. This is a record and undoubtedly reveals that there is underlying reluctance to hold all one’s eggs in the equity basket.
Would it be mean to juxtapose the two stories about student funds? The first is the protest about intolerably high fees -- anything rather than get down to some swotting. And the second is the news that there’s little hope that the National Student Financial Aid scheme will recover any more than  about 10% of the outstanding R56bn it has distributed in the past 20 years or so. It’s interesting to note that the fund expects that any beneficiary who goes on to get a job paying more than about R2500 a month should make a start on repayment. That’s a really tough ask. The conclusion is that in fact many students are not actually paying their own fees at all and that the scheme is simply a roundabout way for the government to finance the universities. This is a seriously broken system.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega is not the only one that Number 1 should have bulleted this week. He ought also to have fired whoever it was that prepared  the speech about party membership for him.  It is well known that our Pres can’t do six digits and he really ought to have been spared the embarrassment of once again stumbling over trying to say a big number. But perhaps the speechwriter planned it so that in the confusion and mirth the fact that Party membership is down went unnoticed. Once again it highlights that our leader is probably innumerate and that involving him in any discussion with amounts greater than the price of a wife is unwise.
Equally at sea with large monetary values are most journalists. One day there is a large and breathless headline about the council losing a million or so in a dodgy deal and the next page the planned expenditure of billions on a city improvement scheme is whistled through without a nod. So far, however, there has been no mention of any plans to build the urgently needed enclosures for the flocks of golden-egg laying geese that the city fathers obviously believe must accompany the awarding of the Commonwealth Games in 2022. The flow of grandiose and ridiculous developments grows stronger by the day. Though not the most expensive, the plan to replace Virginia Airport with a luxury housing development has a distinct whiff of corruption about it if only for the secrecy that has attended all details. The location of an airstrip capable of handling modest sized business jets just ten minutes from the city’s financial and commercial centres is an advantage unmatched by any other South African city. Scrapping that is very short-sighted. Has everyone already forgotten the embarrassment caused at the time of the Soccer World Cup semi-final when even scheduled flights were turned away from the single runway and meagre apron facilities of King Shaka International?
While we should all be bold enough to plan for Welsh leeks on toast for supper tomorrow it will be more sensible just to stick with chops and boerie I suppose.

James Greener
Friday 16th October 2015