Issue: April/June 2010


It was no small thing for Cape Town to have been selected as the venue for the International Conference of Actuaries. Held there during a week in March, roughly 250 papers (several running to over 30 pages) were presented by experts most prominent in their fields from around the world.

It would have been no small thing, either, to have met the ultimate challenge for any seasoned journalist: first, to write up highly technical actuaries’ papers as exciting reads; second, to summarise them all in two or three magazine pages.

The papers will take time to select and peruse, let alone understand. Sorry to disappoint Lucienne Fild, the ever-enthusiastic PR for the conference, who might have expected media miracles. For now, the best to be offered is the sagacity of Woody Allen:

“I took a course in speed reading. Last night I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.”

Good luck to National Treasury, having taken upon itself the quest to review Regulation 28, in trying offer guidelines for alternative investments. So far, the attempt has defeated the best of minds.

Michael Barnier, European Union internal market commissioner, has had to admit that his early directives to regulate hedge funds and private equity had been badly drafted and rushed. Now he thinks that the latest directive is an improvement, but needs further improvement still.

Let him stumble toward the improvements. Once he’s finished stumbling, National Treasury can pick up from where he leaves off. It’s a case of first-mover disadvantage.

Even more difficult, when National Treasury gets around to defining these opaque and obscure missiles called derivatives, will be in showing what it means by “speculation” (of which the Reg 28 draft disapproves).

To invest in hedge funds is okay. But it’s in the nature of hedge funds to speculate, which isn’t okay.

Just one more thought, for the moment, about that draft Reg 28. Until now, a fund’s investments had to comply in aggregate with the regulation. Where the aggregate was below the ceiling for offshore investments, individual members could elect individually to invest offshore so that their individual offshore investment exceeded the fund’s aggregate offshore ceiling.

But now, having legitimately exercised individual member choice, his offshore ceiling will have to be the same as the fund’s. If the ceiling is set at 20%, for instance, it means that he’ll have to repatriate any excess. Much will depend on the timing of implementation.

Should it be immediate – and there’s likely to be an interim revision of Reg 28 by mid-year – it implies that they’ll be hard hit by bringing back their money when the rand’s at its strongest.

That will be downright unfair, just like retrospective legislation, and surely isn’t an intention.

There’s an obvious typographical error in a resolution of the Cosatu congress. It refers to trustees of retirement funds having “judiciary” responsibility.

At least, let’s hope it’s a typo and not a Freudian slip.

Another typo, perhaps less obvious, is in a press statement put out on behalf of the much-loved and publicity-shy Julius Malema. The statement, to “clarify” matters pertaining to his personal finances, was issued by the “AMC Youth League”.

Spot the misprint? It’s easy. “AMC” should have read “AMG”, typically the most expensive model in any Mercedes motor-car series.

Talking of which, I do feel sympathy for the poor guys who can afford flashy sports cars but not the licence registration plates to go on them.

But I do wish they’d stop banging on about the levels of crime. These people are criminals themselves.

“If it wasn’t for the last minute,” opines my Matie daughter, “nothing would get done”. Never a truer word...