Dancing in the rain

4 December 2008

Hi guys,

Why am I writing this email? Because I’m getting the impression there are some depressed people walking around. Now there are a couple of potential reasons for this phenomenom: 1. Festive season hangovers. Solution: Convert to Islam. 2. Moving offices. Solution: Resign and work from trailer park. 3. Manic depressive personality. Solution: Prozac or alcohol (see point 1 for solution to hangover). 4. You read newspapers. Solution: Rather work.

It’s been just over 10 months since I sent that damn Don’t Panic email. Quite a bit has happened since then, some of it good (ie: Ricoffee sales have sky-rocketed), some of it bad (ie: Ricoffee sales have sky-rocketed).

So let’s recap: At the beginning of the year people were panicking about the oil price, inflation, electricity and economic recession. Of those big 4 concerns, 3 have taken care of themselves. Oil is now below $50 a barrel, inflation is not such a big deal because oil is cheap nowadays, and we haven’t had any crazy power outages since February (the Eskom saga is a complete mystery to me). What about the recession? Well, as it turns out, that was something that deserved a bit of panic. Especially if your name is Dick and you run a New York investment bank. Fortunately we don’t have any Dick’s at iBurst.

After the merry-go-round of bad news at the beginning of the year, capped by the xenophobic attacks (note to attackers: neck-lacing innocent foreigners is not a great advert for our country), it’s been quite surreal to watch the u-turn executed by those heading for the exit door. It’s a bit like watching naïve tourists run into the sea off Camp’s Bay, scream in pain, and then race back onto the beach. The water looks so nice, but don’t go in there unless you’re an Eskimo. Suddenly foreign shores aren’t as attractive when there are no jobs, no credit, and no sunshine.

Just to put a couple of things in perspective, here is some info on the year-to-date performance of world stock markets (as of 10 Nov):

Iceland              -89%

China                -64%

Russia              -64%

India                 -48%

Hong Kong        -46%

Brazil                -40%

Japan                -40%

USA                 -36%

Australia           -35%

UK                    -32%

New Zealand      -29%

South Africa      -26%

SA is not so bad, is it? I’d rather be here than in Iceland.

Sunny SA is certainly not immune to the global economic crisis. Our companies are suffering too, which means fewer bonuses and more retrenchments (always a winning recipe for unhappiness). How long will it last? Who knows, but brace yourselves for a tough 2009.  The good news is that after every tough time comes good times, so at least we all have something to look forward to!

What is the silver lining for SA? Our interest rates are still high, but at least there is the possibility of a decrease in rates to ease the burden on your back pocket. The UK and USA do not have that luxury, their interests rates are already too low to cut further!

What else? Mad Bob can’t last forever. When he heads off into the sunset there will be an absolute bonanza of investment and aid flooding into Zimbabwe, and a large chunk of that windfall will be via sunny SA… oh happy days. Who said there were no plusses to having a failed state as a neighbour?

What else? Anyone noticed the cranes everywhere you look? Seen the Gautrain progress? I went down to CT 2 weeks ago, and virtually the entire highway is under construction. The unintended consequence of the government procrastination on infrastructure investment over the past 10 years is that now that it’s finally underway it is just in time to prop up our economy! Gotta love those bureaucrats.

What else? The Soccer World Cup is coming. If we get it right, ie: 10,000 tourists are not hi-jacked, we’ll be the hottest spot on the planet, and we’ll have a shout for hosting the Olympics.

But don’t crack open the champagne just yet, we still have our fair share of challenges. Your average Yank may be swapping his house for a trailer, but at least he’s not worried about being shot in the head on the way to his next job interview. If any of you have a relative or friend in the government, please pass on this message, “Crime is out of control and most of our schools and hospitals are in disarray.” Don’t for a second fool yourself that we can ignore these structural problems and live the rest of our lives in blissful ignorance. We must constantly remind the politicians to do their jobs, but we cannot absolve ourselves of our responsibility to make individual contributions. It is our business to make this land a success. Report crime, pick up litter, give to the needy, create jobs, look after the children, practice safe sex, drink filter coffee. We’ve all got a responsibility to make the magic happen, otherwise you’ll just end up lying in bed in 50 years time, looking back and saying “What if?”

The time of opportunity is upon us, now it’s up to us to seize the day. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Life is not about waiting for storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Looking forward to dancing in 2009!

Cheers,

Alan