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I trust this finds you exceptionally well as we move into calendar year-end preparations and prepare to repel the Boney M invasion which has already started.

I trust this finds you exceptionally well as we move into calendar year-end preparations and prepare to repel the Boney M invasion which has already started. As it has been (since 2007), we continue to live in interesting times!!! The South African situation is becoming ever more disturbing as wild-cat strikes have now broken out of mining and parastatals into other industries and look to be further disrupting equilibrium, growth and external perceptions of South Africa to the detriment of all South Africans. It has been a huge month in terms of events, results and consequences (with the Americans having chosen, subsequent to month-end, but more about that later). In addition, spare a thought for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. We have had some floods and foul weather over the last six weeks, but nothing of that scale. The unfortunate implication of Hurricane Sandy is that, due to Re-insurance and Re-insurers, our insurance premiums will be increasing and we’ll be contributing, albeit indirectly, to the damage.

I have spent pages and pages on the European situation over the last eight months or so, and will summarise it briefly as follows. It was a mess last month with no decisions being taken by decision makers to address the issues. It still is a mess this month with no decisions being taken by decision makers to address the issues.

Please read below the following extract from GaveKal, bemoaning government interference and the lack of government understanding and LACK OF COMMON SENSE of how the world works. My commentary follows below the excerpt. As always, don’t take it from me – take it from the really clever people who really know. The excerpt is discussing how governments think they should spend more (bearing in mind that governments don’t create or produce anything, they just re-allocate what is already there and borrow more to fund consumption expenditure if it isn’t there).

Excerpt commences:
One thing is to try to understand dynamic condition-dependent multipliers, even roughly, over multiple time spans. As the economics profession seeks simple models that can win Nobel Prizes, they’ve let us down by doing far too little of the work on condition-dependency or horizon-dependency.

Absent convincing models on the multipliers, do not dismiss common sense! Would borrowing and spending another $10 trillion produce a positive multiplier for next year’ Of course.

Over five years’ Of course not. It’s no different from a family that boosts the GFP (Gross Family Product … i.e., family run-rate consumption) by buying a car they can’t afford. Would stimulus diverted to pork projects boost near-term GDP more or less than long-term debt’ The latter is pretty obviously the correct answer. It’s no different from a family deciding to buy bling rather than upgrading to a more reliable commuter car. Common sense trumps mathematical models, every time.

Apportion austerity and stimulus, short-term pain and gain, in measures that deliver maximum deficit reduction, ideally without deep recession. E.g., stimulus spending has an okay short-term multiplier, but it almost always delivers more long-term debt than near-term economic stimulus; spending cuts reverse this effect at a cost of near-term recession. Tax hikes, if perceived as permanent (they usually are), have a terrible long-term multiplier; tax cuts reverse this … unless the bond market is spooked by default risk.

“Liberalizing private sector labor laws is very underrated, because we have attached such a deeply ingrained [public sense of what is “right” and “fair”]: [Labor laws] have a vast multiplier whenever regulation actively discourages new job creation, as is true throughout the developed world. Get rid of the minimum wage’ How dare you’!’! But, suppose it’s replaced with a negative income tax that allows flat rates at all income levels. In effect, we’re replacing a regulatory minimum wage, imposed on employers and discouraging employment, with public funding of a minimum wage, supplanting much of the public welfare bureaucracy.
Excerpt ends.

The above excerpt describes the South African situation perfectly, where government is trying to meddle in and control things that they have no concept, understanding or experience of. Tax the rich. Discourage risk taking. Punish entrepreneurs. Promulgate really tough labour laws. Borrow money to spend it now.

EXCEPT!!!!, the above excerpt (published last month) is a commentary on the American government who, it seems are just as bloody stupid as our own. The common sense that should be guiding governments the world over is 1. Encourage and incentivise full economic participation. 2. Do not spend more than you earn. 3. Reward the economic drivers who are contributing to the economy and give them tools to work with. 4. Do not punish the economic drivers and reward mediocrity. It is not rocket science but it seems that all over the world there is this palpable air of frustration as governments do and attempt to do things that they shouldn’t, couldn’t and have no knowledge or experience of (e.g. nationalization of the mines). They can’t run Telkom, Denel, SAA etc etc etc, why bugger up something else’

It seems that as soon as one achieves a position of responsibility or power in government, one receives a frontal lobotomy on that part of the brain which actually used to work and which had any perception of reality or consequence. One is spirited away by fairies to a shining white edifice where laws of gravity, reality and cash-flow do not apply. Until both people and governments spend less than they earn, we are going nowhere fast.

The problem with democracy is that it gives people the power to vote for politicians who are at best, not entirely in touch with reality, at worst, pursuing their own agendas for the accretion of wealth, power and patronage. It is easy to make promises of a bountiful life for all and benefits and low taxes, however, the reality is that someone has to pay for it. A recent case in point is the French election where Sarkozy was ousted with (as could be seen at the time) “unfulfillable” promises. The electorate by and large fell for it and are now starting to push back as the delivery of said promises is not forthcoming. In fact, the excerpt above applies almost perfectly to France as well (the government in effect has told Peugeot/ Citroen that they could not retrench staff. The company is losing money hand over fist making cars that no-one is buying but they cannot retrench staff; and the company is having to borrow money to meet their consumption obligations, which means that they have all these people continuing to make all these cars which no-one will continue to buy and the company will continue to borrow more money to meet their obligations (go around again). How is it possible that the French government cannot see the problem with that business model’).

My position, as I’ve said indefinitely and ad nauseum, is that we (being the global collective) are in for at least another six to eight years of recovery/ stagnation/ volatility/ crises – until this debt burden has been dealt with or written off (which means that somebody has to have a haircut – and that in itself has all kinds of implications).

As I have previously mentioned, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors is proud to inform South Africans, that for the third consecutive year South Africa has maintained the number 1 position in the World Economic Forum Survey for the strength of its auditing and reporting standards regarding company financial performance. Whilst I am delighted for the feather in the cap of South Africa, what it means is that we have the most exacting audit standards in the world (and you don’t get that without audit fees having to cover the cost of compliance/ attaining and maintaining those standards). In my view, more time and money could be better spent addressing the many other ills in South Africa – poverty, education, sanitation, housing etc etc etc.

The ongoing national embarrassment that is the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) remains just that. Don’t hold your breath.

As has been previously mentioned, SARS have added a truly vicious and malevolent beast to their arsenal known as an IT14SD. This is a reconciliation which requires reconciliation between the payroll numbers on the financial statements to the payroll reports (IRP5s and EMP501s) and a reconciliation of the VAT inputs and outputs (to cost of sales). This is an incredibly labour intensive reconciliation which easily takes 40 man hours. It is a VERY VERY expensive and time-consuming submission (and seeing as SARS developed this without informing the software providers, as of August 2012, there isn’t a software provider in South Africa that has set up their software to generate the inputs/ reports in the format required). I asked the question at the annual Southern Suburbs SAICA/ SARS meeting if we could not submit the document and rather invite SARS to audit. The considered reply was NO. It has to be submitted, irrespective of the time and cost (and of course God help you if a mistake is made). Of course, the fact that, for example, in a manufacturing environment, where (say) salaries are included in cost of sales, there is no way on God’s green earth that the financial statements will ever be able to reconcile to this, which leads to audits and more time and money wasted.

Further thereto, I must add the following extract (which was included in my October letter) from Peter Carruthers – 2012/9/27 (I am including it again for emphasis because it is THAT IMPORTANT):
On top of that, it turns out that SARS has an exciting new way of getting your attention. SARS apparently (according to a person at Standard Bank) has a ‘lien’ on any funds in any bank account, and when SARS ‘thinks’ money is owed to it they can just take it. This applies to amounts under dispute as well, even if SARS staffers have already agreed that they have made a mistake. Lets look at what this means to you if SARS thinks you owe money to the state. I emphasize ‘thinks’ because their calcs are often a little less precise than one might like.

Imagine what happens to all the weekend debit orders that you knew at breakfast on Friday were catered for. Only to find out on Monday morning that all twelve debit orders bounced. (Because SARS took the funds out Friday afternoon without any warning.) Your first notice would be a call from the bank at lunch on Monday, along with their very high costs for the bounces.

And, of course, the damage to your financial credibility. (To say nothing of the crowd at Diners (one bounce and your card is revoked), Telkom (phone cut off), MWEB (there goes the Internet connection), your landlord (who has that surety against your home), and your insurances.)  Lets take it a step further. Imagine that you had no money in his business bank account. But, you had an overdraft facility of, say, R100,000. The SARS vacuum would have sucked up the available cash – taking the firm into overdraft.

And then, because you were relying on that overdraft covering the debit orders, all his debit orders bounce. And because his debit orders bounce, the bank pulls your overdraft. (Now you are R200K behind the month end bills which include salaries (and a bunch of fights with the CCMA), VAT (and the penalties for late payment), credit card payments, and so forth.)

And since you, like 99.9% of us have your overdraft backed by his house, the bank starts to proceed against you by calling in their surety.

The knock-on of such a huge unexpected drain, especially in this fragile economy, will close most of  us. Goodbye.

All because you thought that the amount under dispute was awaiting resolution, as it has been for the past four years because SARS usually works at the speed of treacle. In this case SARS have agreed that their initial calculation of R150K Capital Gains Tax is way off, but someone with his hand on the cherry-picker is not privy to that news.

I don’t know about you, but I think that the folk working at SARS truly have no idea what they are doing when it comes to small business.

Which reminds me, if you enter into a dispute with SARS about any outstanding monies, you MUST also ask them to delay payment of the funds they think are due. (This does not automatically happen as normal people might expect.) Without that second request, you’re expected to pay first and argue later. Quite so. This is a heads up. If you are in a dispute with SARS, note that they are punching below the belt. And take appropriate action to protect your business.
Excerpt ends.

As mentioned in October, the unemployment insurance funds earnings limit has increased from  R149 736 to R178 464 per annum (from R12,478 to R14,872 per month). The Department of Labour kept this fairly important fact a secret before admitting reluctantly that this increase would affect neither employers nor employees. It took a while for them to connect the dots and realise that if the price increases then someone has to pay for the increase. What this means is that employers will pay an extra R23.94 per month per employee for the privilege of employing staff and staff will have an extra R23.94 per month deducted for the privilege of being administered by the absolute imbeciles that are currently enjoying sheltered employment in the Department of Labour. (Interestingly enough, the definition of an imbecile used to be: “somebody with an IQ between 25 and 50 and a mental age of between three and seven years”. It appears that these Departmental of Labour muppets are insulting the good names of imbeciles).

If you are looking for a worthy charity to support for the year (or longer), please consider Mama Lumka’s Educare and the Nceduluntu Sanctuary Trust. If you would like to contribute in any way shape or form, please contact me directly or go to Please note that any donations made are S18A deductions for SARS and are fully tax deductible. Further thereto, any money spent supporting the project counts for BEE scorecard points under the “Social Investment” banner so if you need BEE points, this is a place to start. As I have mentioned, we support Mama Lumka.

However, there is support and then there is support. As you know Al Barnes the barking Mad Pommy (and friends) committed to ride 1,000kms  on their bicycles in the space of forty eight hours to raise money for Mama Lumka. That is forty eight hours on a bicycle to ride one thousand kms.  In terms of distance, that is from Cape Town to beyond Plettenberg Bay and back. I didn’t think that the human body was capable of it. But he did it. The Mad Pom, Pat Rich and Ed did it. They raised in excess of R100,000 (and still climbing), which is enough money to cover the running costs of the Sanctuary for a month.

More locally we also support True North which works with previously disadvantaged communities through the provision of education, primary care, research and technology sharing – any and all donations are welcomed. Contact Vicky on the above website. If you would like to make double bang for your buck, the Pearson Foundation (in the USA) has offered to donate a dollar to match every local dollar donated (so for every Dollar you donate the Pearson Foundation donates one as well – up to one hundred thousand dollars. Please see the website for details.

As always, please consider what you can do to ease pressure on our planet – if you have recycling of an electronic nature – old PCs/ equipment/ toasters/ televisions or anything electrical, please contact Ecycle for recycling of these items.

Oasis Recycling collects “normal” recycling – glass/ cans/ paper etc from the office (speak to them for details) and provides work for some 450 intellectually disabled men, women and children. Having a recycling bin at work is probably the most carbon-effective means of recycling as no “special trip” is necessitated.

To confirm our contact numbers and deal with increasing telephonic demand, we have three contact numbers, namely 021 701 4052, 021 701 4063 and 0861 378 881 (which is a share-call number). Please use the relevant persons cellular telephone if getting through to switch-board is taking some time.

To end with something a little lighter in nature, I have included a glossary of Financial Terms after the Meltdown

  • CEO — Chief Embezzlement Officer.
  • CFO — Corporate Fraud Officer.
  • BULL MARKET — A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
  • VALUE INVESTING — The art of buying low and selling lower.
  • P/E RATIO — The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.
  • BROKER — What my advisor made me.
  • STANDARD & POOR — Your life in a nutshell.
  • STOCK ANALYST — Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
  • STOCK SPLIT — When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.
  • FINANCIAL PLANNER — A guy whose phone has been disconnected.
  • MARKET CORRECTION — The day after you buy stocks.
  • CASH FLOW– The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
  • YAHOO — What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.
  • WINDOWS — What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.
  • INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR — Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.
  • PROFIT — An archaic word no longer in use.

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