Friday, 5 May 2017


So, despite or maybe because of hosting the dubious and dodgy delegates of the World Economic Forum our currency has gone all weak again. Share prices too have slipped a bit. The political landscape is now filled with more booing than a haunted house. Number One rather cleverly said that this was a sign of a healthy democracy. Whether he is similarly sanguine about a court’s judgement that purchase of nuclear power stations from his BRICS chum Vladimir Putin was unconstitutional, remains to be seen. This venture was set to be a great little earner for JZ and his mates. The Nkandla homestead is getting rather dilapidated and the fire pool is leaking so a bit of extra cash would be welcome.
A few weeks ago, sounds of revelry were heard coming from the nation’s tax collectors. They had reached their fiscal-year collection target of R1.14 trillion. The swingeing 33% increase in the dividend withholding tax rate had done the job and so it was high-fives and bubbly all round. National Treasury has just released the exchequer cash flows for March and it shows that distributions to departments in the same period totalled R1.32 trillion. This makes deficit around R174 billion, or R477 million a day, every day, for a whole year. That’s not good news. Neither is the result of some elementary analysis of the figures which shows that for the first time since 2007/8 the rate of increase in state spending is getting larger and is about to exceed the growth in revenue. Our new Minister of Finance is going to have to take off his spiffy coat, roll up the impeccable sleeves and do some hard work getting every government department to fire half its staff complement.
Instead he was here in Durban introducing the WEF to Inclusive Growth. This is the latest in a family of meaningless catch phrases. It follows Radical Economic Transformation and White Monopoly Capital as mantras to be used in place of doing something which could improve the lives of all citizens. What is needed is many years of economic growth far larger than population growth in which time the “Inclusive” aspect will take care of itself. Reaching this stage, however, is never going to be possible while there are Ivory Tower academics dispensing 100-year old, thoroughly discredited Marxist dogma dressed up as advice. It’s very disturbing to think that there are still relics like this teaching in our universities.
The incidents and difficulties experienced by our own stubborn Big Man, the USA’s maverick CEO, and the assorted handbag-wielding European big-wigs are all remarkably similar. In most cases their challenges arise from the incredible inconvenience and unpredictability of democracy. Everyone has a different view of who “the people” are and what it is that they demand or need (usually not the same thing) and so the tensions rise. Domestically, we urgently and desperately need a return to the rule of law where violent crime is swiftly investigated and punished. This now deserves a higher priority than either education or health as the providers of those services are being targeted by criminals. But the biggest crime wave concerns the under-reported attacks on farmers. These vile murders clearly play into the (unstated but suspected) government land redistribution agenda and don’t receive sufficient official condemnation or much policing response. 
The presence and intervention of a wise statesman able to take charge and calm things down are rare events limited to only a few souls each generation. Here in South Africa we may have used up our allocation for a long time. It’s not a happy thought.
Three fellows have been selected by Nike – the sports outfit outfit – to try and run a marathon in under 2 hours. The report says that they will be “aided by a host of carefully-managed technological and environmental advances”. Does this mean they will or will not be allowed to use the magic sweeties allegedly popular amongst top notch athletes? In this sport, the 3% speed improvement required to achieve the target is considerable. It will be brutal viewing. South African Super Rugby sides, however, will need a far larger performance improvement if they are going to attract their fans back to fill all the vacant seats. Not even the resurgent Kings are worth the price of a ticket yet.
James Greener
Friday 5th May 2017