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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

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... 

The Dunning Kruger effect

By: Riaan de Lange     1st December 2017 Ever heard of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr? You would, no doubt, have used them. You might well have used it, and continue to use it, on numerous occasion, for “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As I was contemplating what to write about this week, I came across yet another... 

Worse than useless, but who is listening?

By: Riaan de Lange     24th November 2017 The difficulty with the English language – and this is compounded by the fact that South Africa is a country of non-first-language English speakers – is that words tend to be used without their meaning being fully comprehended. As a result, many South Africans are quick to use a word like... 

The 2023 Rugby World Cup mistake

By: Riaan de Lange     17th November 2017 The 2023 Rugby World Cup Mistake “Impi! wo 'nans' impi iyeza, Obani bengathinta amabhubesi?” The opening lyrics of Johnny Clegg and Juluka’s ‘Impi’ resonates with me, as do the images of the Springboks storming past Zulu warriors, in traditional dress, with fireworks exploding all around them as... 

No future, no future, for . . . you!

By: Riaan de Lange     10th November 2017 No future, no future, for … you! It’s strange how these words, granted with the added impetus provided by an old Pioneer, cutting through the silence of a cold dark winter’s night, are not greatly appreciated at half past one on a Sunday morning. Then, uniting in less-than-silent accord, faceless... 

Bleeding Heart Yard

By: Riaan de Lange     3rd November 2017 It’s a cold, windy and generally a miserable day as I step off Greville street, in Farringdon, in the City of London, seeking shelter from the icy-cold wind. I unwittingly enter a cobbled courtyard, which featured in Charles Dickens’ novel, Little Dorrit. The courtyard is said to have been named... 

No matter what the experts say, customs is only about three things

By: Riaan de Lange     27th October 2017 Do you consider yourself an ‘expert’ or a ‘specialist’ in your chosen profession? If you answered ‘expert’, I would raise a weary smile, for a wise person once told me of an unwittingly (maybe not) self-professing ‘donkey’ that offered to provide him with invaluable insights in his area of... 

Neopatrimonialism is merely ‘a huge embarrassment’

By: Riaan de Lange     20th October 2017 The dramatic decline to which a select few ‘South Africans’ are subjecting so many of us no longer considered a ‘crisis’. In essence, neopatrimonialism is not considered a crisis’ – it is merely a huge embarrassment. As I account for the latest narration, attributable to a senior politician, my... 

South Africa falling down a rabbit hole

By: Riaan de Lange     13th October 2017 The use of graphs to illustrate the South African economy’s trajectory is a superfluous endeavour in the nth degree. The appeal of graphs, your general line graph, is to emphasise the tendency of the measure to ascend. Not to descend. But then South Africa wants to also transcend. To avoid... 

I can’t explain – you would not understand

By: Riaan de Lange     6th October 2017 If anything, I have, in the words of Pink Floyd, “become comfortably numb”. My thoughts are miles away as I wonder through the Victoria & Albert, or the V&A. No, not the V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town. Come to think of it, how does that colonial designation endure? I am at the Pink Floyd: Their... 

Customs inaction – 4 661 days, and still counting

By: Riaan de Lange     29th September 2017 It is a fateful Saturday. It is September 16. If you cannot recall the day, I have three digits to remind 57-0. Enough said – numbers are clinical when conveying a message. A total of 4 661 days have passed since the South African Revenue Service (Sars) begun to 'rewrite' South Africa's customs... 

I am unable to replicate your thinking

By: Riaan de Lange     22nd September 2017 In a country famed for its politeness, you have to take care not of offend, or to be perceived to offend, when expressing an opinion that may differ from those held by people about whom you are expressing the opinion. An expression might well be perceived as a prejudicial. Hint: the country is... 

Those were the days . . .

By: Riaan de Lange     15th September 2017 It's Sunday afternoon. It’s hot and humid. You can smell the sea in a faint breeze that barely manages to rattle the leaves of the trees, which have been scorched and hardened by the sun. It is one of those vegetating Sunday afternoons, when you silently salute the inventor of the television... 

Don’t make an impact – consciously limit it

By: Riaan de Lange     8th September 2017 Sometimes I wonder about the costs that I personally impose on the planet. This usually happens when I hear of people being held up, by others, as having made a positive contribution. Is it not interesting that society is seemingly constantly being deprived of its best people? In the main, these... 

South Africa is at war with itself – but why?

By: Riaan de Lange     1st September 2017 Why, indeed? Why worry? My grandfather used to offer an answer that you might be quite familiar with: “If you worry, you die; if you don’t worry. you also die. So, why worry?” If I were asked this question before, I would most likely have offered a similar response to my grandfather's – if it... 

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