Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 03:56:29 -0200
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Mayibuye, Vol. 6, no. 6, October 1995
"Of course we believe in competition, but..."
Michael Spicer, a senior Anglo American executive and big business ideologue, has been having an ongoing quarrel with Trevor Manuel. The ANC Minister of Trade and Industry is developing proposals to break the hold that monopolies (like Anglo) have over our economy (and over our lives).
Manuel's proposals are quite simple. He wants to introduce greater competition. Somehow Spicer doesn't like that idea.
It's amusing how big business ideologues have a lot to say about competition... except when it comes to being competed against.
Sell by dates
Recently, Manuel and Spicer shared a conference platform. After Manuel had outlined his anti-monopoly perspectives, Spicer had a chance to speak. "Thank heavens," he said rather menacingly, "politicians have short shelf lives."
We assume he wasn't threatening Manuel with a Walusz or a Derby-Lewis. Giving Spicer the benefit of the doubt, we'll take him to mean that voters, in a democracy, have a chance to vote politicians in and out of office.
Now, somehow we don't have the same democratic input when it comes to the directors of Anglo American. It sounds like a good idea though, doesn't it? We should put Michael Spicer out on to the democratic market, with a label "Expiry date: 01/11/1995".
As readers of this column will know, Umrabulo likes to read interviews of prominent South Africans. We were glancing at a recent interview profile with Reserve Bank governor Chris Stals. Here are some of his answers, in his own words:
Personal best achievement: "None springs to mind."
Person who has had the biggest influence on your career: "No one person."
Person you would most like to meet: "I have met all those I wish to meet."
Businessperson who has impressed you most: "No one person."
Favourite TV programme: "None."
Biggest disappointment: "Failing to reduce the inflation rate to zero."
You get the pattern? None, no one, none, no one, none, none and zero. Lighten up, sunshine!
Out of fashion
Paradoxically, at the very moment that Stals was expressing these exceedingly generous and upbeat views, the US publication Newsweek had some very different opinions on Stals' big obsession.
The September 18 issue of Newsweek features an article entitled: "Growth Phobia - Are outmoded inflation fears raising unemployment?" Yes, says the article, basing itself on a report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
"First in Britain and North America, and more recently in Europe, policymakers have deregulated, privatised, busted labour unions, zealously attacked inflation and permitted a torrent of capital to globalise. Yet the jobs situation has only grown worse. Suspiciously, rising unemployment in Europe and widening income inequalities in America are reaching record levels at the same time as all this unrestricted business activity."
"Is there a link between the two?" asks Newsweek. "Absolutely, say a growing number of liberal economists."
The UNCTAD report places much blame for chronic unemployment on the narrow inflation phobias of Reserve Bank governors, like our friend Stals.
Get a pet
In the interests of bringing some hope to the more than four million unemployed in our country, Umrabulo suggests that Sunnyboy Stals should read the UNCTAD report, buy a pet, retire and settle down to watch some good TV.