If you think a clean municipal audit is scarce, try to get a call answered quickly

Are we becoming a nation that celebrate losses? After each of the many Springbok losses ex Bok coach Allister Coetzee oversaw, he found “much positive to build on”. When reacting to the Auditor General’s scathing report about the financial management at local level, Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs and his deputy Andries Nel reminded me of Coetzee.

The Auditor General (AG) reported:

  • A 75% deterioration in in unauthorised expenditure to a level of R28.3 billion – a figure higher than the expected income from the increase in the VAT rate;
  • Team Failing Clean Audit Municipalities trumped team Clean Audit Municipalities by 224 – 33, a loss comparable to the All Black’s 57 – 0 trashing of the Boks, though damaging not only South Africans’ enthusiasm, but their financial well-being too;

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SA’s fight against unemployment: The importance of pet food, popcorn & detergents in the quest for growth

On a sunny autumn morning in Bloemfontein I visited a business hand-picked by Government as a National Gazelle: one of the firms Government believes has the potential for massive growth and substantial job creation to attack the three-headed dragon of inequality, unemployment and poverty.

Popcorn & Flat Bread

The National Gazelles Programme is financed (well, by tax-payers) through SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency) and the Department for Small Business Development (DSBD). In the first phase 40 firms were identified in “10 priority industry sectors aligned with the National Development Plan and SEDA’s SME strategy”. The recruitment of the next batch is underway. (In enterprise literature, a Gazelle is defined as a company that grows by at least 20% per annum for 4 successive years)

Having covered  the decline in the number of formal businesses and how company losses now exceed taxable company income , as well as Government’s failure to create a business-friendly environment , the focus is now on the positive steps Government has taken to promote private enterprise.

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The ‘cigarettes and whisky conundrum’ and the advice of the Red Queen

The Red Queen said to Alice: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” 1 This advice also seems to hold for the cigarettes and whisky conundrum of South African communities.

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Fragmentation of South Africa: Is the ANC succeeding where the NP failed?

Remember, South Africa as a unitary state is a recent experiment and the verdict on its success or failure is still to be determined…” These words by Lawrence Schlemmer, one of the foremost analytical minds in SA during the latter quarter of the 20thC are today far more relevant than when he uttered them in 1996 when we were enjoying a drink whilst waiting at the late Jan Smuts Airport on delayed flights. Having just read Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers I was starkly reminded of Lawrie’s words.

Lawrie Schlemmer

South Africa is unravelling…

I had the privilege of meeting Lawrie when he was a strategy advisor to the Urban Foundation in the years 1987 onwards. His sharp intellect and wit made him an impressive debater. He was totally independent – apart from his utter dependence on nicotine.

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Zipf’s law and South African towns

An important question has exercised the minds of many economist over time: why are there differences in the sizes of different towns? For instance, why are all towns in a region not of equal size? The answer has to do with power laws.

There is no Hobbesian significance in the word ‘power’ – it is just a mathematical term. If the value of some quantity q depends on the value of another quantity x according to a power-law relationship, this means that each time x is doubled, y increases by some constant factor (Ball, 2005).

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Of people and enterprises in South African towns

Western CapeOrderliness in enterprise development in South African towns has been observed as statistically significant correlations between different characteristics of South African towns. One of the first correlations noted was a statistically significant positive relationship between the population of South African towns and the number of their enterprises. This was observed in the Free State, the Northern Cape, the Western Cape (see graph) and the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve. In fact, towns in the Eastern Cape Karoo exhibited such relationships over a period of a century. One can conclude the relationship is ubiquitous in South Africa. Continue reading “Of people and enterprises in South African towns”