Issue: Mar/May 2011


An article of faith in the philosophy of Minister Ebrahim Patel is that the state must play a central role in planning and directing economic development. This belief was at its most extreme in the former Soviet Union. It knew how to put a man into space but didn't know how to deliver tomatoes to Moscow.

The famous Russian joke is recorded of a little girl answering the phone at the home of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. "My daddy and mommy are out," she tells the caller. "My daddy's orbiting the earth and will be back at seven o'clock. My mommy's gone shopping for vegetables so we don't know when she'll return."

Reading between the lines of sections in the New Growth Path, it resonates.

There's angst in Europe about the retirement age being extended from 65. In SA too, age 65 is it. Yet the origin of this magical number dates back more than a century and is utterly illogical when people are living much longer than they did then.

In the late 1800s the German chancellor, Otto von Bismark, introduced a social-security system that would appeal to the working class. But he didn't want it to cost too much so he pitched the entry level for retirement benefits at age 65, well knowing that few German workers would ever reach it.

Thus has it been, with slight modifications, in most western jurisdictions ever since. Thank the Iron Chancellor for the anomalies we have today.

Talking of anomalies, there was the coincidental juxtaposition of two stories in Business Day a few weeks ago. The first was a report on the "big spending plans" of International Relations & Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in establishing an agency, approved by cabinet, that will dispense aid to poorer African countries.

Immediately below it appeared a report on how poverty was at the root of many problems in the SA school system, with the effects lasting throughout the schooling of very poor children unequipped to enter Grade 1.

Go figure out the priorities.

Is gold overvalued? Yes, by an ancient measurement.

The Babylonians would use an ounce of gold to buy 350 loaves of bread. Having paid R10,99 for an 800gm loaf of Albany Olde Cape Wholegrain at Pick ‘n Pay, the gold price by their yardstick should be $550.

The way the bread price is going, don't worry too much about the gold price

This photo was taken off the M-Net television ad for Liberty.

At the last minute before flighting, the bulldog's name was changed from Rex to Max

The way insiders tell it, they suddenly realised that the possibility of jokes about Liberty deputy ceo Rex Tomlinson being in the dogbox would be on their heads.

There's a sharp writer of headlines for the daily Investec market commentary. Well done to he or she who, on the morning after the Egyptian president said he wouldn't be resigning, came up with "Mubarak on de banks of denial".

It's understood that the SA advertising pay-off line "Alive with possibilities" is to be replaced with "More than you imagine". Let's test it for our International Marketing Council.

"Are the fiduciary duties of retirement-fund trustees onerous?" "More than you imagine." "Can money be made from being a curator?" "More than you imagine." "Are you upset that your fund didn't pile into equities a year ago?" "More than you imagine." "Have you benefited from BEE?" "Who, me?"It works, almost

What do you call an Australian who can handle a bat?A vet.