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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

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... 

Desperate cases and lost causes

By: Riaan de Lange     27th April 2018 There comes a time in one’s life when, without a hint of warning, you know yourself. It is a Eureka moment – a time when you can anticipate and even foretell your own reactions and, no matter how hard you may try, there is a consistency, a predictability in your approach. It is the bane of the... 

Just keep it simple

By: Riaan de Lange     20th April 2018 One of my fondest memories is of my grandfather visiting us in the city from the farm. Those visits were memorable, not because of their regularity – I can count them on the finger of one hand. On one of these visits I thought of treating him by taking him to a coffee shop. How difficult could it... 

These are my principles, but . . .

By: Riaan de Lange     13th April 2018 My father’s friend is a principled man. In the past, you would have read much into my opening sentence. Only a few days ago, my young son returned from school with a letter. A dreaded letter. In this day and age, any written correspondence received from school on a paper is never a good thing.... 

Free trade deal is much ado about nothing

By: Riaan de Lange     6th April 2018 It is the eightieth day of the year as I sit down to write this piece – the first full day of the sign of Aries. In case you are wondering, there are 285 days until the end of the year, and, in another 65 days, it will be Tax Freedom Day. It means that you will need to work up to May 25 to pay... 

Remember to look up at the stars

By: Riaan de Lange     30th March 2018 Writing this column tends to be a Sunday afternoon routine of contemplation and reflection on the week that was. But there are a few weeks, such as before the Easter holiday, when this routine is disrupted, as I am required to submit two instalments in one week. As I wrote this column, on the... 

Be in the black

By: Riaan de Lange     23rd March 2018 Is South Africa in the black? Or does it have aspirations to be in the black? In terms of what does South Africa want to be in the black?  Is it in wealth or the factors of production, or the financial viability and sustainability of State-owned enterprises? Is it essentially, about a single... 

Irreconcilable and self contradictory

By: Riaan de Lange     16th March 2018 In his maiden State of the Nation address (Sona), President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged that land expropriation with compensation, which government regards as one of several measures to accelerate land redistribution, will be undertaken "in a way that promotes agricultural production, improves food... 

The bogan of the 2018 Budget

By: Riaan de Lange     9th March 2018 Let me clarify – bogan is not Australian and New Zealand slang, but rather the dark side of the Force in Star Wars, also known as the bad force. If the slang intrigues, it is used to depict a person whose attitude and behaviour are considered unsophisticated. Several days have pass since the... 

Sowing the wind

By: Riaan de Lange     2nd March 2018 Once upon a time – long, long ago – in a faraway land, there was a small State-funded village in a magical kingdom. Just in case you were wondering, this is considered the most popular and most famous of fairy-tale story starter, but the phrase ‘State-funded’ is my addition. 

A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh

By: Riaan de Lange     23rd February 2018 For good measure, you need to repeat the title another three times. Does it sound familiar? If not, then the first three words following the introduction would, “In the jungle”. For good measure “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, The lion sleeps tonight, In the jungle the quiet jungle, The lion... 

Ramaphosanomics

By: Martin Zhuwakinyu     16th February 2018 It is said that many a truth is spoken in jest. I contend that restricting the adage to ‘spoken’ might well be dated. A few years ago, I co-authored a chapter in the book Zumanomics. With a change of guard at the Presidency anticipated, I consulted my favourite search engine for references to... 

Radical economic restoration

By: Riaan de Lange     9th February 2018 Chances are that you are familiar with the term ‘radical economic transformation’, even though you might not quite know what it means. What does it actually mean? Have you ever come across its definition? Well, that’s the thing; it has not been defined. It is not un-Googleable. It is Googleable,... 

Oo, oo, oo, the tide is turning

By: Riaan de Lange     2nd February 2018 Has the tide really turned? Well, it depends on your perspective. Is the tide turning for the better of for the worse? Before exploring further, let me confess that I typed away with Roger Waters’ The Tide Is Turning adding to my keyboard’s sounds. Only minutes before, I had read Oxfam’s report... 

Analysing customs stats a business imperative

By: Riaan de Lange     26th January 2018 On February 2, 2009, I had my 15 minutes of fame. I will never forget that morning. It was very early in the morning, with only a few cars on the road, as I made my way to my office at the Economics Department of the University of Pretoria, when I got stuck at a robot. It was one of those robots... 

The smartest guys and gals in the room?

By: Riaan de Lange     19th January 2018 If only . . .  I fear that the guys and gals are anything but. For one, they have to be in the room. Before I talk about the ‘they’, let me just explain the old business adage, to ‘be in the room’. To ‘be in the room’, they needed to, at the very least, concentrate and focus on what they were... 

A race to (or for) the bottom

By: Riaan de Lange     15th December 2017 “Ha ha ha ha ha. Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” These opening lyrics of the Spice Girls’ 1996 song,... 

South Africa in junk or high on it?

By: Riaan de Lange     8th December 2017 Have you seen junk? Ever touched, used it or sailed on it? No, not in it, but on it? A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to sail on a junk while visiting Hong Kong. A junk, a Chinese flat-bottomed sailing ship, came into use in 220 BC and is still in use to this day. You can no longer sail... 

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