Friday, 10 February 2017


Despite what the experts say, money is flowing into share markets in the USA. Prices are tramping (trumping?) steadily upwards without pause. Conventional valuation metrics are howling in warning but there seems always to be a buyer prepared to pay more for a share than current owner did. Even US bond yields have stabilised.
The country’s mielie farmers are dealing with a plague of army worms which have the capacity to destroy huge swathes of crops in a very short space of time. Anyone following this story could easily have been confused by the sight of our army dressed in camo and well armed -- just like the aforementioned worms -- in the streets of Cape Town. Were they mobilised to retaliate against the worms? Had the generals had forgotten that there are no mielie fields in Cape Town?
The first reason offered for the presence of soldiers was that JZ was in town to deliver a speech in parliament about the State of the Nation, and the troops were there for ceremonial reasons. However, the truth turned out to be that Mr Zuma felt that he needed more protection than usual. Our president is at war with anyone who wants to challenge his intention to do whatever he wants to do. Particularly when that involves inviting his special chums to join him in raiding the cash box currently being guarded by finance minister Pravin Gordhan. This is not going to end well for the rest of us either.
The JSE and our bonds and currency seem to be as dispirited and indifferent to the goings on in Cape Town as the rest of the population. Maybe the Budget in a few weeks will liven things up with tax increases and debt horror stories. The slow and wary would do well to stand back
So now we know how many professionals it takes to draw up an Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Program. 60. This is how many lawyers, bankers, accountants and actuaries have been working (mostly pro bono apparently) on what is hoped will be a significant and useful cog in the gears of tertiary education. This Program will slot in alongside the existing National Student Financial Aid Scheme. NSFAS is a wholly taxpayer-funded outfit that this year has allocated up to R76 000 to about 175 000 successful student applicants. Now this rather substantial amount (for say 10 months of study) is almost double the new and much heralded national minimum wage of R3 500 per month. And the student should not normally be supporting a family. Our priorities and sums are skewed. Perhaps a developing nation like ours needs a lot fewer youngsters being admitted to university -- especially in the humanities. Just how many political science (oxymoron) and similar arm-waving graduates do we need?
Naturally this change in policy must be matched by the state withdrawing from micro managing the allocation of resources so that jobs become available and school leavers have a sensible chance of acquiring a job, skills and experience
Many readers of this letter will be suffering the worry and inconvenience of the latest recall affecting almost 40 000 cars.  Apparently, the problem is that an electrical short circuit can cause the seats of our Maserati to catch fire. Since it affects models from 2014 to the present it seems that this luxury marque has been just as tardy and uncaring as have Ford whose Kuga model locally also has a worrying habit of bursting into flames. Already no doubt someone is working up the Ford incident into a textbook case study in how not to conduct customer relations and how to destroy brand image.
Within hours we will know if the Proteas have completed the ODI white-wash of Sri Lanka. It’s a bit startling that the lads will be aboard the plane for a lengthy NZ tour before the champagne bubbles go flat.
James Greener
Friday 10th February 2017 (thanks for all the responses to last week’s date line)