Davos Doubts

I was chatting this morning over a coffee with one of SA’s black diamonds – a highly successful businessman who has run some pretty important companies. You would recognise him if you saw him. He reminded me that when we chatted a few months ago, he had predicted the rand would continue weakening and the economy would be in trouble. Now he is predicting that it will be difficult for South Africa to avoid some pretty nasty unrest, as actual food inflation climbs, eroding the spending power of the people. He is also not convinced that the current leadership is capable of doing much about all this. We also chatted about Davos. Now I am sure there are benefits for seven of our ministers if they go to this global event and network away and get a better perspective on the world. But they are also justifying the trip by trying to sell government’s National Development Plan, to convince the world we are the place to do business. As my pal suggested, they haven’t had a lot of
success pushing the investment case within SA – witness last year’s cold feet (or should that be cold tyres?) by BMW. Nonetheless the TV and radio networks are full of chummy interviews with normally aloof and inaccessible ministers, who gush in their belief that they are doing an important job in convincing the world that SA is an ideal investment destination. Who is their audience, really? Those listening to the interviews and reading the reports back in SA, or the global business leaders? It is hard not to be cynical as we approach an election. I suspect a lot of taxpayers’ money is being spent (and I have no clue of the extent to which ZA media presence at Davos is being subsidised by Brand SA or other state bodies) to put forward an image. That we have impressive politicians, at ease with the world’s political and business elite, and they are doing a far better job in Switzerland than they would if they were back home attending to the sinking rand, a labour
crisis in the mining industry, a power utility which is urging its customers not to use much of its product, and traffic lights in Sandton which still don’t work. I hope I am wrong. I hope the Davos dividend is massive. But I am not holding my breath.

Tweets of the Day:
Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow): What do you get when you cross a parrot and a lion? I don’t know, but when it talks, you’d better listen. #ClassicJokeWednesday

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