Friday, 8 September 2017


It’s alarming that now even SA’s presumed key financial daily newspaper is so dubious of the GDP growth results that it relegates its report to page 2 under the heading of Agricultural Growth. The 2.5% pa headline number was indeed a great surprise particularly when the breakdown reveals that government’s contribution actually declined and was the sole sector to do so. Crucially and worryingly the construction industry is reported to have shown zero growth. We have remarked before the “look and feel” of these quarterly GDP announcements has been deteriorating for a few years now and it is probably unwise to place too much trust in these figures. Regardless of what the flamboyant and entertaining Statistician-General has to say, his department’s product is losing credibility.
But reputation and probity count for little in the corridors of power. The numerous photos of Number One in poses of triumph and victory with his best friends of the BRICS nations at a recent gettogether raise many questions. Like why do the Big Men of Russia and China consent to being seen in the company of a small-time operator like Jacob Zuma. What do they want from us that is not already captured by other shady characters? Has the Saxonwold Shebeen management approved this meeting?
A delightfully irreverent comment attached to a picture of these head honchos simultaneously mashing 5 large starter buttons for some project or other pointed out that it was certain that the SA and Brazilian panels were not connected to anything. Similarly, there must be some doubt if the shiny new R5bn joint deal between the Russians and ourselves to develop oil and gas blocks offshore SA will connect with anything useful. Despite the PetroSA claim that their “guys negotiated the deal well into the night” the winners appear to be the men in the fur hats. Our return in this deal is to find cheap and plentiful hydrocarbons but the likelihood od that is very small.
The one area where SA is right up in the big league is in the terrible standard of available candidates on offer to replace the incumbent. Not one of the half dozen or so hopefuls for leadership of the ruling party and thereafter president of the country looks able to raise the level of honesty and capability currently so grievously absent in our poor land.  The dirty tricks campaigns being waged by the players against their opponents are just as boring and sleazy as any seen north of the equator. At the very least anyone with a single digit IQ and a CV with false claims ought to be refused entry to the contest. A third test of matching their personal balance sheet to the past twenty years of tax returns will surely eliminate the rest. Let’s try doing without a government for a year and see if we are any worse off. We’d certainly save a great deal of money.
Many analysts are now writing about the problem with the JSE market indices. Thanks to the really great investment many years ago into a Chinese internet business by the hitherto rather boring Naspers, this company now dominates the JSE in almost every measure of size and swamps the signals that the All Share and similar indices are supposed to send about the domestic economy and markets. Ground floor investors in Naspers couldn’t care less but those who hope to use the indices for more general analysis are getting annoyed and calling for changes to be made. That this disruptor has arrived more or less as the Exchange Traded Fund products are coming of age is rather ironic and newcomers to investing are getting a lesson that we old timers don’t believe they should be learning! Add to this the fact that bond yields are dropping, the rand is doing OK and it makes investing look so easy.
Bafana Bafana mucked up their world cup chances by probably setting some kind of record goal difference per national capita statistic. The boy racers of Durban’s night time streets, however, are out prove that Ferrari is still the fastest way to wipe out a lamp post and a car despite the ominous Mercedes victory at Monza.    Just how good the ‘bok rebirth is this season will be seen tomorrow when we meet the Wallabies. Fortunately, our fellows will be back in green and gold and it’s an away match so we can start celebrating early.
James Greener
Friday 8th September 2017

[1] A much used and misleading headline from the 70s. PetroSA is the new Soekor