Friday, 15 April 2016


Intriguingly the rand is today stronger than it was before Number One felled all the skittles and fired Finance Minister Nene who was irking him by refusing to pay for the presidential patronages. And while the political landscape is littered with wreckage of constitutional expectations and discarded principles, the financial one is swiftly back to normal. Buyers of shares are inclined to pay more for fewer earnings. Consumers are paying more for purchases. And the cost of credit is also on the up. Enough rain has yet to fall in the right places. Anyone with a bullish forecast must have their fingers crossed firmly behind their backs.
A clever analyst has developed a neat way to price politicians by expressing it as the number of median sized taxpayers it takes to cover each salary. Unfortunately, the data he used is a bit old, but in 2012 One President needed 56 taxpayers to get him through the year. Today with almost 100 members of the cabinet it is probable that upwards of 4000 taxpayers are required to pay just the top layer of government.  That’s pretty much the readership of Tidemarks. Just saying.
Only highly skilled and trained economists will be able to understand the agreement that Grain SA has with government not to allow the price of imported wheat to fall below $294 / tonne. The current global wheat surplus (for places not suffering a drought) has caused the international price to drop, but this windfall is not to be enjoyed in SA. The agreement automatically places a tariff on all imports of this important food to keep the price at this special level in US dollars. In rands, however, it obviously has soared and the probability that bread prices must go up in an election year is causing alarm even amongst those who eat little of the stuff. This agreement is just another example of a special interest group getting government support and money to control their market. Every industry and business occasionally attempts this stunt in some way and the trump card in the negotiation is often the threat of unemployment amongst important voting groups.  This terrifies politicians of every party and usually the principle of free markets fades away to be replaced by the dead hand of bureaucracy slumped across the controls of that section of the economy. Once upon a time, here in SA there were battalions of control boards roaming the corridors of power in Pretoria and it is a surprise to learn that they have not all gone extinct. 
The imminent formation of a company that will brew and sell almost one third of the entire world’s beer is worrying the suits who are sure that no good will come of such a giant. One particularly stupid demand is that the new company should brew and sell low and zero alcohol beers. Rest assured, if there was any demand for such a vile product the folk at Anheuser and SAB would have been onto it years ago. Nevertheless, the competition cops feel this will keep the chinks open for competitors. Actually competition is already emerging from the Craft Beer industry which seems to attract the big spending so-called hipsters. Some restaurants no longer stock even Castle Lager. Who is Charles Glass anyway?
The suspicion is growing that Minister van Rooyen during his 96-hour tenure in the Finance Ministry did perhaps do slightly more than check the en-suite facilities and measure for curtains. One ringing alarm bell is that shortly before his appointment, Desmond spent one day in Dubai “on holiday”. The brevity of this break he said was because it was all he could afford.  If nothing else this admission should alert local holiday resorts to bombard him with pamphlets about more affordable vacations. Now Dubai was also the place where our president made a very brief unscheduled stopover recently and it was the first destination of the Guptas who gapped it. Clearly there is something or someone important in that place. Our country’s meagre reputation and perhaps wealth are getting a thrashing. 
Why did SARU think that the announcement yesterday that Allister Coetzee would be the new ‘bok coach was news? It wasn’t even a secret let alone a badly kept one. However, all we want is for the coach and his team to pick a winning team game after game. Deliver us a victory over the All Blacks for the next five years and I will certainly be proud to boast that we both come from Grahamstown.
James Greener
15th April 2016