Some good amid gloom

2008-04-27 00:00

Having sat through Clive Coetzee’s reports on the third and fourth quarters of the Pietermaritzburg economy, we felt the noose of depression tightening another notch or two.

Already assailed by Eskom, rising inflation, increasing interest rates, soaring fuel prices, and a general disenchantment with life in South Africa, we now learn that, economically, things are set to get even tougher.

This means paying more for things we consume, be it maize, beef or veggies, and the prognosis points towards even higher prices. Exacerbating the situation is that, from a food security perspective, we are consuming more than we produce. There are reasons for this phenomenon of course, and it’s going to take time to restore the equilibrium of this complex dynamic.

No matter how one looks at it, it’s not a comforting story. Then again, and no matter how sobering the news, Coetzee somehow manages to stitch a silver lining to the darkest cloud.

His take on the overall slowing of economic activity, for instance, is that it will allow the city’s overburdened infrastructure and housing sectors to play catch-up.

But the real value of Coetzee’s report is that it warns us of what lies ahead. Interestingly, the third quarter historically has seen the most activity, and one can pretty much forecast the future on the basis of what happens in July, August and September.

There is something comforting in Coetzee’s report, even if it only accentuates the cyclical nature of economics. Things may not be as rosy as they were a few months ago, but life goes on and the wheel will turn again.

In this respect, we find the scramble for a plane heading anywhere but here somewhat unseemly. It’s fair to say that for every reason to consider emigrating, there is a more compelling reason to stay. The question is, why the deafening silence as far as positive news is concerned?

Curtain call

Unless something changes, we’ve seen the last of Clive Coetzee’s quarterly reports on the city’s economic activity.

Coetzee is leaving the city, and not only because he wants to return to his hometown of Cape Town. Localised factors helped to inform his decision, and more’s the pity as the city will suffer his loss.

Seeking excellence

Contrary to what we may believe, it’s not all doom and gloom at city hall, as an initiative by city manager Rob Haswell to reward exceptional performance of staff is proving.

Paid for out of his own pocket, and with the generous assistance of Park Lane Spar, Haswell recognised four staff members as the first recipients of the Improver of the Month award.

Nominees were identified by their peers in four departments — planning, electricity, accounts, and corporate services over the past four months.

Plans examiner Nkosinathi Duma won the December award for his dedication as acting manager, while the February award was shared by electricity customer service branch manager Andrew Moodley and pay office chief accountant Dudu Ndlovu. Acting committee officer, Claudette Jacobs, in the corporate services division, won the February award.

Air cars

We noticed with interest that General Motors has appealed to world governments to invest in hydrogen infrastructure, in a bid to promote the mass production of eco-friendly vehicles.

Pointing out that higher production volumes of these vehicles are necessary to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, GM said hydrogen infrastructure was feasible and economically viable.

We assume, then, that till such time that the world has embraced eco-friendly technology, GM will continue to manufacture the gas-guzzling Hummer?

Mining profits

The Amadiba Crisis Committee and Sustaining the Wild Coast Association were none too happy with the no-show by the ministers heading the departments of Minerals and Energy, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and Land Affairs at the Human Rights Commission.

At issue was a hearing to investigate whether the proposed mining of mineral-rich dunes would compromise the human rights of affected Wild Coast communities.

They felt, with some justification, that the plight and rights of affected communities are not taken seriously enough, and that the HRC should reconvene the meeting in the Amadiba Tribal Administrative Area where the mining development is proposed.

Quiz buzz

Bravo to the PCB for introducing a bit of fun at the most recent Chamber lunch. A quiz on the city’s new street names saw tables going all out to claim some vanity, some guests stooping so low, by surreptitiously calling their tjommies for the answers!

Anyway, a run-off featuring four tables eventually produced a winner who will speak at the next luncheon.

Garden delight

Patrons of the monthly PCB lunches will be pleased to know that next month’s venue is the Secret Garden. Not only are the premises significantly bigger than what Chamber House offers, but the venue is also located on the periphery of the Bisley Nature Reserve.

So, make sure you put your name down for what promises to be a delightful change of routine.

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