Friday, 16 December 2016


Just two months ago the price of a single euro was around USD 1.12. These days it is a mere USD 1.04. Simply put, people now want dollars and don’t want euros. And this is despite all the waffle and panic about the US president-elect who, it has been alleged, will lead that nation into ruin. So far the markets don’t agree. Somehow, without much fanfare the world has slipped into a new normal (dread phrase) with at last US interest rates rising. Just this week the Federal Reserve risked another 25 basis points increase – the last one was a year ago – but at this pace and the mind-set of absolute control we may never learn what the true cost of money ought to be. In the meantime, US share prices are off to the races and with the notable exception of gold most other commodities including oil are rising.
Back home it is amazing to watch the value of exports slowly closing on the value of imports. Despite the interminable interference of know-it-all government, the private sector is getting stuff done. This is also showing up as the resources sector being the best performer of the year with the banks coming a close second. However, the hard pressed consumer sector (a difficult idea to grasp for anyone who has visited a shopping mall in the last few days) will drag the overall JSE performance in 2016 to no more than about 1%. In other words it has been a difficult year for investment. Just like all the others!
A useful number to keep in mind when reading about all the cash that seems to slosh about in the SA economy is that total notes and coins in circulation is in the region of R120 to R140 bn. The variability is a well-established monthly pay day effect. So stories of the neighbour paying cash for the new Ferrari or the gent on his way to Dubai with seven suitcases of folding money are small fry. Undoubtedly though millions of us are getting through the day without banking facilities like savings accounts, credit cards and EFTs. Now Venezuela has followed the example of India and declared their largest currency note valueless to throttle this sort of untraceable and probably untaxable business but have caused unexpected consequences everywhere. Fascinating. This governing business is difficult.
The current parliamentary investigation into just what has been going on at SABC, the national broadcaster, has established only one thing for certain. No one has a clue. The chief politico in charge of the farrago, who is misleadingly titled the minister of communication, demonstrated award-winning skills in denying responsibility and buck-passing. Her performance made it abundantly clear why the SABC and the country’s overdue so-called digital migration project are in chaos. Complicated technical issues such as bandwidth, broadcast spectrum and signal encryption are obviously secondary to ensuring maximum benefits for insiders including Number One and his puppet masters. Minister Faith Muthambi has, to quote her official profile, “a string of qualifications” of which only a Certificate in Computer Training might be even vaguely relevant to her current post. However, as an Advocate of the High Court she undoubtedly knows how to find and argue a loophole.
Anyone venturing into the world wide web swamps at the moment is deluged with ideas for what the advertisers claim are last-minute gifts. Come on guys. There are 8 more days to Christmas. Last-minute is just that and with almost round the clock store openings it’s possible to get stuff to put under the Christmas tree just moments before the recipients pitch up! It’s a boy thing.
It's hard to believe that an extended talk-shop is the solution to SA rugby’s woes. What might be more successful is having far fewer administrators being paid to talk and diverting that money towards players who are paid to perform. Everyone in the business should be in fear of losing their place if the results don’t improve.
James Greener
Dingaans Day 2016