Beating the downturn

2009-03-08 00:00

ONLY the ignorant will deny that the fall-out from the global economic slow-down has started to affect the city.

It may be true that South Africa will escape the worst of the impact, but there’s no doubt we are seeing the effects in the city.

Addressing council, Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell pointed to a decline in the bulk purchase of electricity to underline a manufacturing downturn by the city’s major industrial consumers.

There’s also the marked decline in motor vehicle sales, and of major concern is that many of the city’s leading firms supply automotive components.

There is talk of short time, retrenchments and — in some cases — great sacrifice by companies not to retrench.

Haswell also points out that adverse times always present opportunities to reassess and revision the city.

“If being home to globally competitive firms is no longer the panacea it was assumed to be, then surely our response must be to become more self-sustaining as a city,” he said.

Simply put, this means that we must learn how to grow our own food, manufacture for local consumption, conserve energy, reduce our environmental footprint and create employment.

Pointing out the need for a new legislature, more schools, a new interchange at N3/Church Street, more middle-income housing, electricity, water, sewerage and road networks, Haswell suggests this can only be accomplished through collective action.

“In short, the time is ripe to come together as a city and collectively assess our situation, strategise and then ensure that both the public and private sectors contribute to key projects, which are both urgently needed and will help to sustain our city and create employment,” he said.

Discussions are already taking place within the Msunduzi Innovation and Development Institute — the tripartite initiative of the Msunduzi Municipality, the University of KZN and the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business.

The upshot is that a city summit is on the cards, an initiative that will hopefully unblock creative juices, instill sense and pave the way for wise decision-making. Watch this space.

Recycling rumbles

IF the R72,10 I collected for schlepping smelly bottles and cans across the city is a measure of the money in recycling, it’s little wonder that the city’s rubbish dump is overflowing.

This leads one to question the commercial value of packaging. The irony is that the cost of producing packaging accounts for as much as, if not more than, the product itself.

Worse still, most packaging material ends up either on the dump or blowing around in the open.

The measly return was hardly worth the effort of responsibly disposing of 200 kg of bottles and 300 kg of cans, most of which had already been crushed by our gardener, Sandile.

First, Sandile and I sacrificed two hours in our travels of 35 km (three litres of diesel), first to dump the cans (R32,80), then to head to Pentrich Road to offload the bottles (R31,35).

After that we set course for Liberty Liquors to cash bottles, but discovered that beer quart bottles are no longer accepted and we could only redeem the R8,95 by buying more from the shop!

It does raise the question why only some bottles carry a deposit, but not others. Surely, it’s time to value a diminishing resource properly?

We told you so

RECENT words by ANC bigwigs on the failings of the education system come as no surprise, especially in view of the repeated warnings of impending doom.

Consider the sentiments of Services Seta (services sectoral education and training authority) CEO Ivor Blumenthal, who claims that 95% of workplace skills plans submitted by employers in this sector are fraudulent, and that the majority are prepared by external skills development facilitators (SDF).

Blumenthal’s point is that not enough engagement between the employer and organised employees is taking place on the goals for staff development, and that CEOs are only too happy to put a signature to a form in order to recoup their skills development levies.

“This is especially in the external SDF environment. Even the cutting and pasting is not done properly,’’ he said.

Changing times

Billy carelessly breaks a window in his neighbour’s house, and his dad gives him a hiding.

1959: Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2009: Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy’s sister tells the state psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Last word

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1802.

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