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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

A whole new world?

By: Riaan de Lange     Updated 2 hours 15 minutes ago “I can show you the world; Shining, shimmering, splendid; … A whole new world; A new fantastic point of view.” If only South Africa could emerge from its economic slumber, as the song from Disney's Aladdin would have. Even Microsoft’s Editor suggests that it should be a “a fantastic new”. But,... 

Look mommy, there’s no plane up in the sky

By: Riaan de Lange     22nd May 2020 What do the kakapo, the takahe, the weka, Comair, SA Express and South African Airways (SAA) have in common? The first three are flightless birds, and the latter three are on the verge of becoming flightless airlines. On May 5, Comair, the owner of kulula.com and the South African operator for... 

Fight, flight, freeze or fawn

By: Riaan de Lange     15th May 2020 You might be more familiar with American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon’s flight-or-fight response, which describes a physiological reaction to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival. The ‘alarm reaction’ is the first stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome that regulates... 

Zombie economics

By: Riaan de Lange     8th May 2020 A zombie is a spirit that wanders about the Earth, tormenting the living. Economics has its own zombies, as it does its own apocalyptic events, one of which is a recession. In addition to a recession, there is an apocalyptic event called a Black Monday, which refers to an international stock... 

The economy in the time of Covid-19

By: Riaan de Lange     1st May 2020 The title is that of the World Bank’s semi-annual report for the Latin America and Caribbean region, which was released on April 12. There is much for South Africa’s policymakers to learn from this report. Do you know how many countries there are in Latin America and in the Caribbean? There are,... 

SA’s Fermi growth estimate

By: Riaan de Lange     24th April 2020 We might well be living the Chinese curse – not Covid-19, but the interesting times that it will deliver. A global economic tragedy is inevitable, only its true extent cannot be determined. If “all the world’s a stage”, as William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy, As You Like It, would have it, then... 

Nelsonian knowledge

By: Riaan de Lange     17th April 2020 What do you understand the headline of this piece to mean? Hint: the phrase originates from across the ocean, where it was used by English judges. The Conglomerate of June 25, 2005, cites it in a quote attributed to Lord Millett, which he delivered in the House of Lords: “It is dishonest for a... 

Three out of three is bad

By: Riaan de Lange     10th April 2020 “Baby, we can talk all night; But that ain't getting us nowhere; I told you everything I possibly can; There's nothing left inside of here; . . . Now don't be sad; 'Cause two out of three ain't bad". That was how the Meatloaf song of yesteryear went, and that was how South African seemingly felt... 

Will the one C survive the other?

By: Riaan de Lange     3rd April 2020 By March 21, most countries had introduced some form of enforced lockdown and/or self-isolation. The Gambler has just played his last hand. Of Kenny Rogers’s music, it is not Islands in the Stream that resonates with me, but The Gambler, You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em,... 

For whom the bell tolls

By: Riaan de Lange     27th March 2020 As I heard the church bells toll on the evening of March 16 – which is when I wrote this piece – I was reminded of the phrase 'for whom the bell tolls'. It refers to the church bells that are rung when a person dies. My church bell ringing is not in practice of the reminiscing the death of the... 

You break it, you buy it

By: Riaan de Lange     20th March 2020 “Beautiful to look at, lovely to hold, but if you should break it, consider it sold.” This rhyme evokes memories of the terror I experienced as a youngster when I was about to enter a shop displaying this message. I recall the drill. As I pushed the door open, which, without exception, triggered... 

Focus on tariff determinations

By: Riaan de Lange     13th March 2020 The National Budget has always tended to be an uninspiring affair as far as customs, excise and international trade are concerned. Its focus tends to be limited to increases in the so-called sin taxes – taxes on tobacco and liquor – and taxes on petroleum producd. This, year's Budget, however,... 

TFA – three years on

By: Riaan de Lange     6th March 2020 The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO's) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the first multilateral deal concluded in the WTO’s 25-year history, celebrated its third year of existence on February 22. The TFA comprises WTO members' commitments to expediting the movement, release and clearance of... 

Stumbling from failure to failure

By: Riaan de Lange     28th February 2020 To avoid embarrassing him, I will not mention the name of my economics professor from Eastern Europe who had a small bust of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, on his desk. Although, as a person, he was quite imposing, he was a gentle soul in class, believing that his mission was to... 

Geographic indication in Brexit aftermath

By: Riaan de Lange     21st February 2020 For as long as I can remember, my favourite meal, if it qualifies to be called that, has been a toasted cheese-and-tomato sandwich. I fondly recall many an afternoon at what was then Café 101, opposite Addington Hospital, on the South Beach, just before the beach starts to curve north. But alas,... 

Brexit: end of the beginning

By: Riaan de Lange     14th February 2020 As I gazed across SW15, the postcode of the city famously known as London, at 00:01 GMT on January 31, Brexit – a portmanteau of ‘British’ and ‘exit’ – which signifies the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU), had started. That was 1 318 days after the UK had voted for the move. On a... 

It’s time govt went back to basics

By: Riaan de Lange     7th February 2020 During the week of January 20, the UK-Africa Investment Summit took place in London and the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. As I contemplated the two events from a South African perspective, a single word sprang to mind  – 'stop'. As the word reverberated in my... 

HS2022 edition launched

By: Riaan de Lange     31st January 2020 The World Customs Organisation (WCO) announced on January 8 that the seventh edition of the Harmonised Commodity, Description and Coding System (HS) nomenclature, used for the uniform classification of goods traded internationally, had been accepted by the all HS Convention contracting parties... 

2020: the year of the IMF bail-out?

By: Riaan de Lange     24th January 2020 The year 2020 is the Year of the Rat. This is according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese believe that the rate signifies wealth and surplus. In South Africa, 2020 is anticipated to be the polar opposite of what the Chinese expect it to be. In all probability, this year will be the Year of the... 

It’s time to put South Africa Inc into business rescue

By: Riaan de Lange     17th January 2020 To complicate something simply means to make something more difficult to deal with or understand. Why not simplify it? Take the South African economy and its performance – it is no more difficult to understand than a business. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, it is deemed to be too complicated... 

Variable outlook with persistent challenges

By: Riaan de Lange     13th December 2019 We live in a world where words have been deprived of their original meaning. So accustomed have we become to seeing and hearing some words that they have lost their impact. We have become numb to them. Comfortably numb. Consider the headline as a case in point. Take a few seconds and reread it.... 

SOEs the worst they have ever been

By: Riaan de Lange     6th December 2019 The above headline is part of a sentence in a report released by the Auditor General on November 20, which reads: “The overall audit outcomes of State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are the worst they have ever been.” For the uninitiated, an audit serves “to conduct an official financial inspection of... 

It’s time to set South African Airways free

By: Riaan de Lange     29th November 2019 You might have one schoolteacher or more who made an enduring impression on you. It might be something that they said or that they attuned you too. Although their name might have faded in memory, their imparted wisdom endures. The tragedy that is South African Airways (SAA) had me recalling my... 

Moulting, molting, sloughing or ecdysis

By: Riaan de Lange     22nd November 2019 There is one word missing from the title that, in biology, refers to the process where many invertebrates and animals routinely cast off a part of there body, which, in many instances – but not always – may be an outer layer or covering. This process occurs at specific times of the year or at... 

Hitting SA’s economic challenges head-on

By: Riaan de Lange     15th November 2019 I write this column at a time of celebration. 32-12. Need I say no more? Capturing the English psyche on the day, the advertised prime-time programme is about that ‘unsinkable ship’ – the RMS Titanic. As this year Rugby World Cup final reminded the favourites, the sinking of the Titanic has long... 

The bobbin industry’s contribution to English

By: Riaan de Lange     8th November 2019 You may be familiar with or have used or still use the phrases ‘knock off’, ‘fast and loose’ and ‘happy hour’. What you might not know is what the three phrases have in common. A hint: they all emanate from a single source – actually, from a single industry. You might not be that familiar with... 

The real cost of graft in South Africa

By: Riaan de Lange     1st November 2019 Speaking at the Financial Times Africa Summit, in London, on October 13, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the cost of this predecessor’s decade-long rule “runs way beyond, in my view, more than R500-billion – some people have even suggested that it could be R1-trillion”. This figure of R500-billion... 

Africa’s trade bloc mirage

By: Riaan de Lange     25th October 2019 The word ‘mirage’ originates from the Latin mirari, which means to look at, to wonder at, to mirror or to admire. There are, in fact, three categories of a mirage: inferior, superior and Fata Morgana, with the last mentioned consisting of a series of unusually elaborate and vertically stacked... 

Economic recovery and transformation strategy

By: Riaan de Lange     18th October 2019 A mounting challenge facing all South Africans is not what you might might think of. The challenge facing us is that we are confronted with words and phrases that simply do not mean what we might believe them to mean. A case in point is ‘Economic Recovery and Transformation Strategy’. Is it part... 

The Presidential Economic Advisory Council

By: Riaan de Lange     11th October 2019 US satirist and mathematician Tom Lehrer is credited with saying: “The ‘new’ approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you are doing rather than to get to the right answer.” So, will the 18-person ‘economic brain trust’ appointed by the President on September 27 get to the... 

SA’s Brexit approach: Roll over and play dead

By: Riaan de Lange     4th October 2019 I concluded the August 30 instalment of this column, which was titled ‘Brexit – we’re not gonna take it’, with this sentence: “It is time for South Africa to step up and take the game to Britain.” I was not envisaging a ‘roll-over’. On September 11, the Department of Trade, Industry and... 

The route to perpetual inequality

By: Riaan de Lange     27th September 2019 This week I continue my trip down memory lane. I focus on that formation – economic or political, depending on your preference – that was in 2001 referenced as BRIC by then chairperson of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O'Neill, in his publication, Building Better Global Economic BRICs. The... 

Butterfly approach to trade

By: Riaan de Lange     20th September 2019 Do you recall 'the butterfly approach to trade? Do not judge yourself harshly if you don't; even the most effective of search engines does not recall. But it does recall the effect, 'the butterfly effect'. In chaos theory this effect is a theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of... 

Dream on, National Treasury

By: Riaan de Lange     13th September 2019 On August 27, the National Treasury released a 59-page economic policy paper titled 'Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth, and Competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa'. It invited comment on the document by September, 15. As I scanned the contents of the document, I... 

Nationalise pensions

By: Riaan de Lange     6th September 2019 To nationalise or to prescribe? In South Africa, a case of ‘potato potato’, as the saying goes, which I appreciate, makes no sense when writing it. Although incorrect, altering it to ‘potato potahto’ brings the point across. Is it also a case of a rose by a different name smelling just as sweet?... 

Brexit – We’re not gonna take it

By: Riaan de Lange     30th August 2019 October 31 is only 76 days away – well, at the time of writing. It should be close to 62 days away as you read this piece. Although Brexit – that is, Britain exiting the European Union (EU) – is not quite the riveting news in South Africa that it is in Britain, that does not make it less... 

SA’s perpetual Zeigarnik effect

By: Riaan de Lange     23rd August 2019 “Round and round the circle / Completing the charm / So, the knot be unknotted / the cross be uncrossed / the crooked be made straight / And the curse be ended” wrote TS Eliot in his poem, Family Reunion. In case you were expecting the lines to rhyme, the poem is blank verse poetry – it consists... 

Is it seasons out of time for the SA pie?

By: Riaan de Lange     16th August 2019 It might well be a case of mixing metaphors, for which Mrs Weston, my much-revered English high school teacher of many years past, would, without a shadow of a doubt, have my guts for garters. So, I am off to a less than auspicious start. But I take solace in the words of Jim George: “It’s not... 

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