Government sabotages its own investment incentives. And why today’s breakfast was a disaster.


A lot of people are suspicious of government officials, so we must raise our hats to senior dti bureaucrat Garth Strachan.   He blew the lid on his department’s justifiable frustrations when it tries to support business and grow jobs, only to see such efforts being demolished by other government departments.

The venue was a discussion on a slightly dodgy World Bank report (is there any other kind?) which gave a lot of attention to tax incentives in SA.

Quite why there was not equal attention to all the grant incentives puzzled most of the audience at the Wits Business School, a place where finding a car parking space is as difficult as tuning in to a white presenter on 702.

Strachan was reacting to the Manufacturing Circle’s boss Philippa Rodseth, who had politely understated that there is “not always alignment” between government departments and officials when it comes to incentives.

Strachan responded, agreeing that a lack of policy coherency in government “is a very big constraint.”

He said that the dti is trying to grow the renewable energy sector, but “another part of government says we will not connect it up to the national grid.”

He appeared to be referring to the foot-dragging by Eskom in signing up agreements to take power from new greener independent producers, something which government and the regulators seem powerless (every pun intended) to over-rule.

The casualties of this?  Strachan said there are five component manufacturers in the renewable energy sector, who have been supported by the dti which “are closing their doors” because of uncertain demand.   Wow.

As we head for the budget on the 22nd of February, it would be wise to look carefully at the government’s buffet of incentives, to ensure that when they are offered to uplift a company, there is not some grubby civil servant lurking under the table to knee the recipients in the dangly department.

After all, it is not the State’s money which is being squandered.  It came from taxpayers.



Your man on the streets of Sandton stormed out of a breakfast meeting today.   It was at the office obelisk of law giant Webber Wentzel, and involved a round table discussion on women in power.   Not the dominatrix stuff, but the oil and gas stuff.

There were three problems:  The draw card was one of Africa’s richest women Isabel dos Santos, whose spectacular success we assume has nothing to do with her parentage.    On arrival, we were told she was a no-show.   Then the breakfast turned out to be muffins, sandwiches and skewers of fruit.  All were great, but they weren’t bacon and egg.   Just as Brexit means Brexit, so breakfast should mean breakfast.  Misleading advertising of the cruellest kind.

However, I would have struggled on had I not arrived before 8am for an 8.30 event which had still not kicked off at 9am.

The rudeness of the organisers is unforgiveable, and my only regret is that I didn’t snatch a pile of muffins on the way out, for a mid-morning top-up.


Tweet of the Day:

Fin24 (@Fin24):   Trump has called on his countrymen to “buy American and hire American.” – #Trade


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Some thoughts on Brexit and SA, and on a couple of Rosebank Restaurants


It has been encouraging to see that our trade and industry (dti) minister Rob Davies has finally popped up in London to discuss Brexit.    The European Union is this country’s main trading partner, but once the British blow their final raspberry at Brussels, we will need a new, bilateral, trade deal with the UK.    It may be that what we have already with the rest of the EU will be preserved with the countries which stay in the bloc, removing the need for another few decades of wrangling over, say, what we call our port and sherry.

Britain itself is a valuable and traditional trading partner of South Africa, and our current trade relations with the country were soured to some extent by the fact that they were negotiated under the (fiercely protectionist) forces of Europe’s Club Med – the EU countries around the Mediterranean which are direct competitors for our wines, fruit and veg.

So what does Red Rob need to achieve?    First of all, he needs to hang on to what we have got.   The UK market is going to continue to be an important one and we need to preserve our current access for exports, and then to improve this.   Going back to Port and Sherry – will a post-Brexit Britain need to abide by EU rules on the naming of agricultural products, under the Geographical Indicators framework?  If not, our marketing efforts will receive a boost, as our ports and sherries (along with our other armoury of brilliant booze) can compete fiercely in terms of quality against the plonk from Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, and may well also be highly price competitive.

So Red Rob has a lot to gain.

It would be wonderful if he can return from London with a schedule for trade negotiations with the Brits, if necessary barging aside upstarts like Trump.

Of course, it won’t be plain sailing against the nation which won back the Falklands and defeated the Armada.   There will be lobbies from sectors of the UK economy which will want a tougher deal with SA – I can think, for instance, of the automotive industry.

South Africa has a good track record in trade negotiations, a good set of skilled officials, and a minister who may not be widely admired at home, but who has shown integrity and grit on the world stage.

Let’s just get a bloody move on!


Some Rosebank Restaurant moans:

One of life’s real pleasures is to eat, drink and be merry.    However, for me the merriment is dependent on the eating and drinking.     If either is sub-standard, merry becomes misery.

That is why I have been so angry at two very expensive restaurants in Johannesburg which failed to deliver to standard.

I went with a client to the Rosebank Grillhouse, and our meal was horrid.  The food was well prepared, the service friendly and efficient, but there was something small and living on my friend’s plate.

This was whisked away, his meal was replaced, but the magic was gone.   Neither of us had much of an appetite after that, and this rather expensive meal is one I will be happy to forget.

There is a Koi restaurant in the nearby courtyard, and some chums from the media division of one of the big banks were foolish enough to offer me lunch there.

They even more foolishly let me choose the wine, which was wonderful, but the prices were very high.

For a starter I had two (oversized) skewers of meat, seasoned in a Japanese style.  Fortunately, there was wine on hand, because they did not taste nice.

I then had some duck and pancakes.  The duck was very dry, making the dish less than enjoyable.

All in all, the food was sub-standard and the prices charged for it were excessive.  Another eat, drink, and be miserable experience.

I will soon be going to one of Rosebank’s newest and most fashionable restaurants.  Watch this space. …..

Tweet of the Day: Sarah Britten Pillay (@Anatinus):   Remind me never to rush to get to a doctor’s appointment on time

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