Stephen Fry has a great set of books out about Greek mythology. In them he explains all about the origins of Greek gods, their powers, their genealogy and their various antics.
In truth though most of these gods were mischievous egotistical louts involved in more than the odd bout of incest and sexual misconduct.
One of my favourites is a god named Pan. He was a god of many things, and one of the reasons I like him so much is that he is a perfect analogy for the duality of man.
Like many of the ancient gods, he is responsible for a few words that we use in the English language. For example, he is responsible for giving us the Pan flute.
But more importantly he is also responsible for giving us words like panic, pandemonium, pandemic and such like. He may even be responsible for giving us the word PANTS. The bottom half of his body took the form of a goat, and therefore to woo his way into ladies hearts he probably had to wear a covering, although I did make the last part up.
Why so much attention given to the Greek gods you may ask?
I think Pan may have taken up residence somewhere in South Africa.
Things are a little chaotic here on the home front and it's reflected in the price of our currency.
The Rand is one of the poorest performing currencies in the world over the last few weeks. To be fair it's not only things on the domestic front that are causing the rand to react the way that it has. The re-emergence of the global inflation problem has also been a contributing factor. However it does appear as if the Investment community is finally waking up to the fact that South Africa today is hardly a risk free investment destination, and any global risk off sentiment reinforces SA’s vulnerability.
Lest just take the announcement that the President made at the SONA address recently. Because of SA’s precarious energy situation, the President announced that he adding to an already bloated cabinet by introducing a Minister of Electricity.
Trying to understand this appointment leaves one scratching one’s head. We already have a Minister of SOE’s. We have a Minister of Energy, and now we will have a Minister of electricity. The potential for some pandemonium amongst these individual Ministries is – shall we say – rather large.
I mean – we don’t see a lot of candy floss around these days. Shall we, therefore, have a minster of melted sugar?
Bad jokes aside, the President’s speech hardly inspired any degree of confidence. Hopes and dreams are one thing. Action and solutions are quite another!!
And this week we have the Finance Minister presenting his annual budget – I suppose we should be happy that we haven’t yet been introduced to a Minister of Money as we don’t have a lot of that either.
Of interest will be the quantum of the debt that will move from Eskom to the Treasury. The market is expecting somewhere between 200-250 billion rand.
That’s a lot of moola in any ones language. Money that has to be found elsewhere.
In the last 2 years the treasuries coffers have been topped up quite substantially as a result of commodity prices. Higher prices means higher revenues for commodity companies, which means higher taxes paid to the treasury.
For this trend to continue the country requires continued demand for commodities. Tick this box, the reopening of China should see demand for commodities continuing.
However, to get these commodities to market we need a consistent energy supply, and the ability to transport these commodities to market. For this we need Transnet to be fully operational, and this is the next source of potential misery for South Africa [Open Pandora’s jar here]. Without going into misery inducing detail, we may require a Minster of Planes Trains and Automobiles soon.
So the good Finance Minister has his hands full trying to satisfy demand for cash from many fronts in an environment of reducing revenue.
Ratings agencies are watching with interest, although seeing as our ratings are already lower than my high school science grades I’m not sure how much more damage they can inflict.
Damn Pan – take a break buddy. Put some pants on and go distract Pandora with your flute. We don’t need your mischief making here.