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Riaan de Lange

Riaan de Lange


This economic and trade-focused column is prepared by Riaan de Lange – riaan@tariffandtrade.co.za. The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views

Where did it originate?

By: Riaan de Lange     15th February 2019 Have you ever attended a a rock concert that celebrated a single album FROM a single band? To be clear: the music tracks of a singular album, with no bonus tracks. Yes, there is such an album and such a concert. Just before Christmas, I attended just that. In an era of music streaming, which,... 

Establish the value of your imports

By: Riaan de Lange     8th February 2019 Eighteen years ago to the day, on February 2, 2001, this column appeared in print for the very first time. That particular Friday must have been a slow news day in South Africa. South African History Online’s 'This day in history' offers no entry on this day. Nothing. This is most disappointing,... 

Shrinkflation

By: Riaan de Lange     1st February 2019 Isn’t it curious how, daily, we see and hear words, without really seeing and hearing the words, with the meaning and definition of the words, rightly or wrongly, set and formalised in our minds. We no longer even give the words a second thought or even a second glance. In addition to not paying... 

Reflections on the Harmonised System

By: Riaan de Lange     25th January 2019 It is ‘harmonized' with a 'z', and not an 's', as it is 'organization' with a 'z', and not an 's'. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself – well, with the organization, that is. In last week’s instament of this column, I alluded to the three things that any business involved in international... 

And so it begins

By: Riaan de Lange     18th January 2019 The title of this piece is a phrase used by King Théoden, South African-born JRR Tolkien's fictional character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, just before the major battle at Helms Deep, as depicted in the movie The Two Towers. And here we are at the start of 2019, mulling South Africa’s own... 

Only time will tell

By: Riaan de Lange     14th December 2018 At first glance, Ibiwisi appears to be a word from one of South Africa’s many indigenous languages – but, alas, it is not. The origin of the word itself is a mystery, which on the present-day reflection simply means that its origin even stumped Google. Ibiwisi is actually an acronym for 'I'll... 

All money is a matter of belief

By: Riaan de Lange     7th December 2018 If you have a few pounds to spare (that is, British pounds, the currency), will have some time to spare on December 12, would be in London on that day and have an interest in economics or philosophy, then you are in for a treat. On offer is a book, but not just any book. It is not the age of the... 

The revised Kyoto Convention

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu     30th November 2018 How familiar are you with the Kyoto Convention, which must not to be confused with the Kyoto Protocol? The full name of the latter is the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It came into 'full force' on February 16, 2005, and is intended to reduce how the... 

With great power comes great responsibility

By: Riaan de Lange     23rd November 2018 The words in the headline are attributable to Uncle Ben, Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben. And you might know Peter Parker who you might know better as Spiderman. This iconic phrase, however, was not spoken by Uncle Ben, but appears in a narrative caption of Marvels’ Amazing Fantasy #15: “. . . with... 

The more things change . . .

By: Riaan de Lange     16th November 2018 As the age-old adage goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. What this means is that turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level and serve to cement the status quo. If anything, there is arguably no more a succinct adage of what has become to personify present... 

Investment – counting the chickens

By: Riaan de Lange     9th November 2018 It is not too difficult to get carried away by one’s emotions. Only minutes before I sat down to write this article, my beloved Sharks had beaten Western Province in the Currie Cup final. That said, I quite possibly have not done their sponsors any service, by not prefixing their names. Truth be... 

Enterprise Europe Network

By: Riaan de Lange     2nd November 2018 With all the nonsense packaged as news that you are subjected to – or, more correctly, bombarded with – on a daily basis, it is quite easy for you to get sucked in and to then not see the forest for the trees. You might be more familiar with the British adage, not see the wood for the trees,... 

Nontariff barriers in Africa

By: Riaan de Lange     26th October 2018 Is it not strange how quickly we get accustomed to terminology that rolls off our tongues and finds its way into our writings and yet we do not even know its true meaning? The term 'nontariff barriers' (NTBs) arguably falls into this category. What are NTBs, which the United Nations Conference on... 

Irregular expenditure

By: Riaan de Lange     19th October 2018 Take a moment to reflect on the phrase 'irregular expenditure'. What thoughts does it evoke? Anything? These two words, I wager, have been rendered devoid of their impact, owing to excessive use. 

I’m from govt and I’m here to help

By: Riaan de Lange     12th October 2018 The words in the headline are considered to be the most terrifying in the English language. This is not my assessment, but that of the gentleman who famously uttered them, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the fourtieth President of the US. If you are old enough, you might well recall a time when companies’... 

Economic stimulus and recovery plan

By: Riaan de Lange     5th October 2018 It is said that there are only three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who cannot. The stimulus and recovery plan has sevral broad parts: implementation of growth-enhancing economic reforms, reprioritisation of public spending to support job creation, the establishment... 

SA economy flying by the seats of its pants

By: Riaan de Lange     28th September 2018 It is said that bad news comes in threes. If only South Africa was that fortunate – the country exhausted its quota a long time ago, and hardly a week goes by without bad news about the performance of the South African economy. The news is either a reflection on what has happened or what is... 

Technically, stuck in a recession

By: Riaan de Lange     21st September 2018 “Is you is or is you ain't?”, to partially borrow from the title of American blues musician BB King’s song. Is South Africa in a recession or ain’t it? It is a simple enough question that should solicit a 'yes' or 'no' answer, ain’t? Surely, if one knows what a recession is, then one should know... 

Do your part to remedy SA’s ills

By: Riaan de Lange     14th September 2018 “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.” These humorous words tend to be attributable to Winnie-the-Pooh. But I am afraid these were not Pooh’s words, and neither were they the author AA. Milne, who wrote of Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. It is in fact, the words of Theodor... 

Heigh-ho silver lining 

By: Riaan de Lange     7th September 2018 They say every silver lining has a cloud or every cloud has a silver lining? Which of the phrases do you prefer? Surely, it depends on whether you are of the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty persuasion. Your perference may also depend on the topic under consideration. With this in mind, it... 

Reflecting on sugar customs duty increase

By: Riaan de Lange     31st August 2018 So, will the increase in the variable formula tariff (VFT) on sugar – or the 'honey without bees', as Alexander the Great called it – mitigate the harshness of international trade or be the saccharine protection that the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) producers desire it to be? Growing up... 

Bailout or bail out?

By: Riaan de Lange     24th August 2018 One word or two? So, which is the correct option for South Africa’s State-owned enterprises (SOEs)? Hint: a bailout is the act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse, while to bail out is to abandon a position or situation. As I contemplated what... 

Can’t you handle the truth?

By: Riaan de Lange     17th August 2018 Have you seen any mention of the publicat of the International Monetary Forum's (IMF's) 2018 Article IV consultation with South Africa? For what I have seen, it was released through a notice from the National Treasury on July 30. Have you seen any mention of this in the South African financial... 

Four Brics and a briquette

By: Riaan de Lange     10th August 2018 The headline of this article sounds a bit like a 1960s band. A popular music band. A pop band. But, alas, it is no band – it is what should be an honest reflection of what the world knows as Brics, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Bric came into existence in 2008 and... 

Darkness, is it contagious?

By: Riaan de Lange     3rd August 2018 A R2 300,000 000 loss, R19 600 000 000 in irregular expenditure, net cash from operations declining by 21.81% from R45 800 000 00 to R37 600 000 000, total debt increasing by 55.04% from R387 000 000 000 to R600 000 000 000, raising only 22% of the R72 000 000 000 borrowing commitment, a firm... 

Semantics around land expropriation

By: Riaan de Lange     27th July 2018 The semantics around land expropriation As I have said many times before, English is, at the best of times, a most intriguing and peculiar language. But I strongly believe that the English are not solely to blame for this. If anything, the Americans did, and continue to, play a role in butchering... 

It’s Friday I’m in love

By: Riaan de Lange     20th July 2018 It’s Friday I'm in … ‘I don't care if Monday's blue; Tuesday's gray and Wednesday too; Thursday I don't care about you; It's Friday I'm in love.’ 

Countdown to Brexit

By: Riaan de Lange     13th July 2018 Should you be reading this column on the date of its publication – July 13 –  it will be the second and last Friday the 13th in 2018. I hope you are not superstitious or suffer from triskaidekaphobia, an extreme or irrational fear of the number 13. And it is only 260 days to the day when the... 

The Feynman Technique

By: Riaan de Lange     6th July 2018 It is said that there are three simple steps to mastering any subject: you are able to master pretty much any subject through understanding concepts that you previously never quite understood, remembering that which you have learnt, simply to studying more efficiently. This is the premise of the... 

Living on past glories?

By: Riaan de Lange     29th June 2018   “It's nine o'clock on a Saturday. The regular crowd shuffles in.” 

Avoid being deceived by economists

By: Riaan de Lange     22nd June 2018 “The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.”  How I wish these prophetic words were mine; this is Joan Robinson’s articulate indictment of economists, which she delivered in a... 

South Africa and the rule of three

By: Riaan de Lange     15th June 2018 So, how do you want to be remembered? As a sinner or a saint; as a hero or a villain? The foregoing two sentences, with the exception of ‘so’, are the opening lyrics of the song by Magic, which derives its title from the opening verse. The thing is, it does not adhere to the rule of three. As a... 

Madness of two, or madness of several?

By: Riaan de Lange     8th June 2018 It is May 25. Only hours earlier, S&P Global Ratings decided to keep South Africa’s sovereign credit rating unchanged. Two months earlier, Moody's Corporation decided to retain South Africa at investment grade. Depending on your economic inclination, you may well consider these decisions... 

Investing in returns, not in debt

By: Riaan de Lange     1st June 2018 Data from the JSE, released on May 18, revealed that, since the beginning of the year, investors had sold R493-billion worth of South African bonds and bought bonds valued at R485-billion. It is worth mentioning that bonds are a debt instrument. For the week ending May 18, investors had disposed... 

London calling for those skilled in trade remedies

By: Riaan de Lange     25th May 2018 As the UK starts to prepare itself for 22:00 on March 29, 2019 – the time and date when it officially leave the European Union (EU) – it is contemplating taking over a number of EU trade competences, also referred to as trade responsibilities. Arguably the most important of these is 'trade... 

You get nothing!

By: Riaan de Lange     18th May 2018 "You lose! Good day, sir!" The headline and the opening sentence are attributable to Willy Wonka, taken from the title role of the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You might well be more familiar with the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Towards the end of the film,... 

It’s déjà vu all over again

By: Riaan de Lange     11th May 2018 “Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs Lancaster?” “I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.”, is Mrs. Lancaster’s sincere response to, essentially a sarcastic enquiry from Phil Connors, in the Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is a situation in which a series of unwelcome or tedious events... 

We should rather have an investment Cabinet

By: Riaan de Lange     4th May 2018 It was a week that saw the UK agreeing to gift South Africa with £50-million only days after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in London to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, had launched a new investment drive. Thi is quite a busy sentence, but then it was quite... 

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