A weak Rand versus a strong Rand

Visiting a garden refuse collection site is an education in many ways. The sites are more than a collection point for garden refuse, which gets recycled and sold back into the community as compost. Additionally they have become a collection point for other materials that can be recycled, and a dumping ground for many old, unwanted items that are believed to be beyond repair. As a result they are generally busy because the recycling culture is, thankfully, growing in most of our communities. However, this can be disputed when you see the rubbish that has been willfully turfed at traffic light intersections, on main roads and at taxi ranks. In short it is disgusting.

The old cliché of one man’s rubbish is another man’s bounty is certainly evident when you are compelled to do your ‘chore’ and visit your local dump, as we refer to them as. The hustle and bustle of employees and ‘helpers’ to see what the next load will reveal is an indication of the ‘entrepreneurs’ that have arisen because of economic realities, and for others out of shear desperation to try and eek out a living and put food on the table. With the price of scrap metal today it is no wonder, although in most cases this commodity is ‘controlled’ by certain individuals and jealously guarded.

The dump is, I believe, a situation which highlights the difference in wealth and education in society. Many an item you see offloaded could easily be donated to a worthy cause, books and clothes for example. But we are generally lazy and it is a real ‘chore’ to go out of our way and be a good citizen and deliver these items to a place that will benefit from them.

When I visited the dump recently I found an ‘entrepreneur’ puzzling over a Euro 20 cents coin. He had no idea about Europe, or the Euro as a currency, and if he could exchange it into South African money what it would be worth? The approximate conversion shocked him.

This brings me to my real point – dealing with Europe, and other countries, at the current level of exchange rate, is expensive and prohibitive. Broadly speaking only the exporters, visitors to our country and those wanting to invest locally, if there are any considering the political and labour unrest situation in South Africa, are smiling. I am no economist or industrialist but surely the benefits that are gained with a weak Rand are to the detriment of the many others that rely on imports. I believe that now even the ‘cheap’ imports from China are making local manufacturing more competitive. This is a positive spinoff but the cost of importing the equipment soon negates the brief advantage gained. We are a nation that relies heavily on imported capital equipment and manufacturers need to upgrade equipment regularly to be more productive. Additionally visiting international exhibitions to keep abreast of the latest technology is now out of the reach of many.

So my question to the authorities is what is their long-term view of the Rand? After all a strong manufacturing base is the life-blood of any industrialised nation.