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June 2008

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FROM THE PEN

The golden issue

I waited a while this month to get going on this editorial. As you are aware, every newspaper and television news bulletin, in boardrooms across the country, at lunches, meetings, in business editorials and corridor conversations, are all peppered with doom and gloom. So when I read this month’s Straight Shooting by Nazeer Wadee (page 7), I was suitably challenged not to ignore the realities with which we live (increasing petrol and food prices, major job losses in the mining industry, ever looming threats of electricity hikes, high crime statistics, corruption, the Zimbabwe ‘crisis’, etc.), but to celebrate and be expectant of what is surely to follow this quagmire.

History teaches us, if nothing else, that, in order to create positive change, you almost need to have a bottom of the barrel experience. Now whether or not this ‘bottom of the barrel experience’ is indeed necessary is an entirely different debate. Suffice to say that our own history teaches us the former. As does the history of both India and China.

So the question I guess we must ask and answer is how do we once again get from the bottom of the barrel to the froth on the top? Well, let’s take a quick look at India’s economic revival. I call it a revival because there is much evidence that suggests that, during the 18th century, India had one of, if not the biggest, economies in the world. Then after independence, India began struggling to get rid of, or effectively deal with, slums in the urban centres together with abject rural poverty. A myriad of tightly controlled and implemented state investment focus and 5-year socialist economic plans have laid the foundation for the revival we see in India’s economy today. But we also know that, in the 90s, India relied heavily on donor money.

India’s experience is very much similar to our own. Now while India’s road to restoring its former economic glory was a heavy investment in building a strong IT business infrastructure and erecting IT-supporting educational institutions, what is or will be South Africa’s saving grace?

As oft I say, in my most humble opinion, our saving grace will be people (as per Nazeers challenge to us) and is gold. Despite our electricity challenges, South Africa remains the world’s largest producer of gold. Surely, herein lies our saving grace.

Raina

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