JP LandmanThe mood in the country, certainly among white people, is quite depressed. An annual opinion poll on South Africans’ optimism found that in February 2008 60% of South Africans felt positive. That was down from an average of mid-60s in previous years. The real outliers were whites; only 31% were optimistic, down from the mid-40s in previous years.The poll reveals that Cape Town has the least positive residents (49%); the Vaal triangle has the most optimistic (74%); Pretoria and Johannesburg come in at 62% and 67% (interesting if one considers the crime in Gauteng); young people are more optimistic than their elders (66% versus 51%); and the inland areas of South Africa more optimistic than the coastal areas. This is probably explained by the fact that optimism among coloureds and Indians is fairly low (40% and 44% respectively) while blacks are very optimistic.Why such a bad mood? In the previous years this poll was conducted we also had crime and malfunctioning municipalities (think the murder of David Rattray and the whole furore at the beginning of last year). So it cannot be that. In my opinion three factors have contributed: politics, economics and Eskom.Politics, particularly the post-Polokwane reaction to African National Congress (ANC) elections and decisions about the media, the Scorpions and the judiciary;Economic headwinds, particularly rising petrol and food prices which also push up inflation and interest rates and depress general activity; andLastly and the most damaging, Eskom’s inability to supply sufficient power.Eskom is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It brought up all the subliminal fears that (whites) have about (black) governance. Never mind the fact that in the mid-1970s Eskom had a similar crisis when the whole country was without power for 18 hours and power tariffs rose by 75% to fix the problem. Somehow the current Eskom crisis is seen as the beginning of the end.EskomLet’s deal with Eskom first, because that also tells us something about economics and politics. The question is simple: can South Africa rise and respond to this crisis in a way that makes the country stronger? At the heart of the Eskom problem is a lack of investment and maintenance. Is that being fixed?Last year Eskom invested R17.7-billion, 67% more than the previous year. This year it will spend R46-billion and next year R80-billion. By 2012 it would have spent R360-billion.Sure, it will take time for these investments to work through; 2012 means another four years of pain and interruptions. But distinguish that from a situation where power cuts take place and no investment is taking place to improve matters (as in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe). So Eskom will turn, even if it takes four years.InvestmentThis investment story repeats itself all over the South Africa economy. Transnet is investing R78-billion over five years; about R12-billion a year are being spent on roads, and toll roads will add to that amount; municipalities are budgeted to spend R100-billion over three years on infrastructure. Then add airports, broadband telecommunications, hospital upgrading, electrification, school building … the list carries on and on. I do not even bother to mention the World Cup stadiums. It is noticeable in the media, but not really in total investment spend.By the way, comfortably more than 90% of these budgets are actually spent. Just take last year when total capex budgets came to R128-billion of which R124-billion was actually spent (97%). All the public attention fell on the R4-billion not spent (3%), very little on the R124-billion actually spent. When last have you built a house, renovated a kitchen or added a bathroom and all those came in 100% within the time you budgeted?All over the country there is a frantic search for skilled people. Engineers who were retrenched are being called back; the collapse in Zimbabwe helps South Africa construction companies fill their complements; labour brokers are bringing people in from foreign shores to work here. The country is booming beyond its ability to supply skills.Before it depresses you, consider the following statement from the Asian Development Bank about the skills shortage in Asia: “Although this brain drain [skilled workers leaving to work in the developed world] is hardly new to the region, it has added a new, more urgent dimension … [to the skills shortage].” It goes on to call the skills shortage “a symptom” of Asia’s economic success. Lovely problem to have.One hears a lot that South Africa spends on social welfare but not on investment. This fiscal year the country will invest 7% of GDP … and spend 4.6% of GDP on social security, including the Road Accident Fund, Unemployment Insurance Fund and of course the 12.4-million social allowances paid out every 30 days. Whilst the state probably spends 80% of what is spent on social security (churches, NGOs and individual do the rest), its investment spend is only about 30% of what the country invests. The private sector does the rest.Can we now please bin this nonsense that we spend more on social welfare than investment?PoliticsSo how will politics change this investment outlook? The Polokwane decision on investment is relevant: “The ANC will also continue to roll out a massive state led infrastructure investment programme that will significantly improve the country’s logistics, energy and communications capacity. It will also promote strategic investments in productive activities, aimed at diversifying the economy and improving the ratio of investment to GDP.” (My italics.)There are some rather questionable decisions from Polokwane, notably on the media, judiciary and the Scorpions, but not on economics and welfare policies. There are budgets and business plans around capex, political decisions backing it and a rising number of people benefiting from it. I think the investment programme is sustainable.EconomicsEven if we accept lower economic growth over the next few years, say 4% rather than the 5% we enjoyed the last few years, the beauty of South Africa is that per capita incomes will still rise and at an accelerating rate. In the 14 years since democracy, per capita incomes have increased by 26%. At 4% growth for the next seven years to 2014, per capita incomes can again increase by … 26%! Consider what has happened in the last 14 years, it can happen again over the next seven.Yes, consumption expenditure will fall and all sectors exposed to that will feel the pain: retail, advertising, car sales and so on. Huge squeals to come from there. But that growth is being replaced with investment that creates jobs, which will in turn stimulate consumption spending. In a year or two interest rates will ease, there will be scope to do tax cuts and per capita incomes will continue to increase.Back to basicsThe basics have not changed. For me the most important precondition of progress is sustained rising per capita incomes. I have punted this view for years. Thus, an article in a recent Economist that we should measure per capita income growth, rather than just economic (or GDP) growth, was music to my ears.The music became more beautiful when a brilliant analysis on Ugandan population growth drew the following comparison: “… from 1993 to 2003, GDP growth rates across Asia managed to outstrip the growth in the labour force, in China comfortably so. By contrast, average GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the same period was 2.9%, all but cancelled out by a growth in the labour force of 2.8%.”This statement probably tells us more about the reasons for sub-Saharan Africa’s failures than any other explanation. If a country cannot grow its economy quicker than its population, it is going absolutely no where. South Africa is clearly not in that league.It is instructive to note that per capita incomes have been declining in Zimbabwe in every single year since 1999 (Hanke, 2008). Fitting then that precisely 10 years after the decline started, even Mugabe could not rig the election. Also instructive to note that per capita incomes in South Africa stared to decline in 1977. Thirteen years later FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC and released Nelson Mandela. Declining per capita incomes have political consequences.MessinessThe latest pin-up in financial writing (justifiably so in my view) is Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness). He offers this simple but highly relevant insight: “That things in the real world are far messier than in recorded history or in memory.” Things were not as clean as some whites’ memories tell them. I have a dear friend who knows and experienced Afrikaner politics quite intimately. In the 1990s he always said that we must go back to 1948 before we can get to 2000. The liberals freak out when they hear this. Those who understand tradition recognise that messiness is part of progress. Gosh, look at China today and the UK in the 1800s – hardly examples of messy free progress.For a long time there was nothing messy in Zimbabwe – good education and health that they could not afford but never debated, little crime, a clean country and little civil society and debate. Not messy at all. Did they progress?Challenge and responseArnold Toynbee taught us that the ability to respond to crises is the critical difference between societies that succeed and those that fail. Progress does not come from having no challenges; rather it comes from responding successfully to challenges.In the 1980s and 1990s South Africa responded most successfully to its political and constitutional crises. Remember when whites were to be killed, black ethnic violence to erupt, the rightwing to lead an armed resistance and so on and so on? Nothing of the sort happened – the country responded successfully to its constitutional crises.In the late 1990s South Africa had a low growth crisis; a 1% economy that looked as if it could not break through a 3% growth ceiling. And now growth is sufficient to lift per capita incomes quicker than Australia, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, the UK and US. The country responded successfully to the challenge of low growth.So what?Rising incomes mean resources to tackle problems, create jobs, fight poverty and build infrastructure. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it is about per capita incomes, stupid.Over the next seven years per capita incomes can rise as much as during the last 14 years. This will trump the negative fallout from politics. The economist Prof De Kiewiet wrote several decades ago that South Africa progresses through “political disasters and economic windfalls.” Between rising incomes and post-Polokwane political uncertainty, it will happen again.South Africa is responding to its infrastructure crisis (which will be around for a while, make no mistake) with a massive investment programme.All that remains now is to put one foot in front of the other, carry on and expect a lot of messiness. Sometimes I think it is our inability to live with messiness that paralyses us. If whites can make this paradigm shift their mood might not be so bleak. More importantly, they can capitalise on the opportunities.JP Landman is a self-employed political and trend analyst. He consults to SA largest private wealth business, BoE Private Clients, and works with several SA corporates on future scenario trends. His focus areas are trends in politics, economics and social capital.Among some of the unique research projects his consultancy has undertaken was the role of public institutions in battling corruption (quoted by the UN in a report on corruption), the interplay of demographics and economic growth, and an overview of trends around poverty alleviation in SA. Whilst working as an analyst on the JSE in the 1990s he was voted the top analyst in political trends.He is also a popular speaker who has addressed diverse audiences locally and internationally and enjoys consistently good ratings.He has a BA and LLB degrees from Stellenbosch (1978), studied Economics and Development Economics at Unisa (1979 and 1980) and later at Harvard (1998 and 2005), and obtained an MPhil in Future Studies (cum laude) from Stellenbosch (2003).
A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… markhachman Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Tags:#Microsoft#Windows 8 A senior executive at popular retailer NewEgg described the Windows 8 launch so far as not the “explosion” that the company originally planned for, but as slow and steadily improving. From a software perspective, however, Windows 8 will probably not take off until about the second quarter of 2013, said Merle McIntosh, the senior vice president of product management of Newegg North America, in an interview.McIntosh said that while he’s heard stories of retailers planning for discounts of Windows 8 to accelerate sales throughout the holiday season, NewEgg so far has no plans to. On the other hand, the e-tailer will discount televisions, Android tablets and digital cameras. And a newer category, solid-state discs (SSDs), could receive discounts if the supply ramps up as anticipated.NewEgg ranked 172nd on the Forbes 2011 list of the America’s top private companies, with an estimated $2.5 billion in annual sales. Known for its geeky focus on all sorts of technology products, NewEgg’s chief competition is probably Fry’s Electronics, ranked at 200th on the Forbes list, with an estimated $2 billion in sales.It’s believable, then, when McIntosh says that NewEgg, along with Microsoft, Intel, and hardware and software manufacturers, have been planning for the Windows 8 launch for some time. Did it go as planned? McIntosh said that the launch sparked debate, even within NewEgg’s offices.“So we planned with our partners to be prepared for an explosion,” McIntosh said. “Did we really believe there was going to be one? Even within our own building, there were some people that thought that this was going to be the next coming of God, and other people were saying, this will be the next coming of God, but not until next year sometime. What we wanted to make sure with our own customers and our own business is that we were ready for any event. So yes, we were prepared for some pretty big upside on the software side of the equation, and the hardware side of the equation, and it is has been steadily improving. But it did not explode, as I think you know, coming out of the gate.”McIntosh said that it was important to divide the Windows 8 launch into two areas: sales of the software itself, and sales of the corresponding Windows 8 hardware, such as traditional notebooks, convertible tablets and pure tablet implementations.“On the software side it has been slow going, and I think it will be that way until the pricing normalizes sometime next year,” McIntosh said, declining to provide actual sales numbers. “But on the hardware side, we’re starting to see some slow but steady increases in notebooks, and as the tablets become available, we’re starting to see some good sides of the tablet part of the equation as well.”Windows 8 Hardware: Slow and SteadyFor its part, Microsoft has pointed to comments made by chief executive Steve Ballmer that describe the sales of its Windows RT tablet, Surface, as “fantastic.” But that’s also left hardware partners like Dell and HP scratching their heads a bit, and initially focusing on Windows 8 devices for businesses.On the hardware side, McIntosh said that NewEgg hoped to be able to sell “well into six figures of units this quarter, [and] we’re hopeful that a significant amount will be Windows 8.” Traditional clamshell notebooks and ultrabooks will be strong sellers, he said. McIntosh didn’t identify any specific Black Friday promotions, but he said the company would be doing “hundreds and hundreds of deals” across various hardware categories.To date, the majority of the company’s Windows 8 device sales are coming from notebooks and desktop PCs, a spokeswoman said in an email. Sales between these two categories have been pretty evenly split. Tablet sales are growing, and NewEgg expects this trend to continue next year, she said. Unfortunately, NewEgg did not break out which notebook hardware categories – clamshell devices, ultrabooks, convertible tablets or tablets – had seen the strongest actual sales.NewEgg may get aggressive with older Windows 7-designed ultrabooks and machines that lack touch screens – not because manufacturers are jettisoning older products into the market, “but because we have some aggressive ambitions in market share,” McIntosh said. NewEgg snapped up inventory of Windows 7 hardware from August through October, anticipating healthy demand. And so far, that’s been the case.“What I do think will happen, generally speaking when we get to Cyber Monday, and the early part of that week – if demand stays strong, that’s one thing. But with even the slightest bit of worry, deals across the board will present themselves,” McIntosh said.Windows 8 OS Sales Expected to Ramp Next YearFrom a software perspective, however, Windows 8 is a different animal. McIntosh said that the Windows 8 launch had been nothing like Windows 7, which, in total, sold more than 100 million copies in six months, and made it Microsoft’s fastest-selling operating system. “It doesn’t even come close,” McIntosh said. “As you know … the Windows 7 launch was coming in to solve a Vista problem, and there was lots of lots of pent-up demand for it. And so for the launch – at launch – the Win 8 stuff doesn’t compare, really.”To date, he said, NewEgg has sold about half the number of Windows 8 copies that it originally stocked, “which is pretty good,” McIntosh said. “My own personal take is that I think it’s great – the software’s great, the touch part of it is great. … I think it will take hold, but I think it’s going to be midway through the first half next year, probably at the end of the first quarter, going into the second quarter, when it really gets some momentum. That’s my opinion.”Microsoft, of course, was suspiciously quiet about Windows 8 in the weeks leading up to the launch, and hasn’t said much since. That’s a different way of doing things than, say, Apple or Amazon, both of which usually trumpet a massive amount of sales in, say, the opening weekend.But McIntosh said that NewEgg wasn’t inclined to discount Windows 8 much during the holiday season, although other retailers might.“From a Windows 8 software perspective, we might be doing some short-burst promotions. … We’re hearing stories that the $69 package [to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro] is going to get into the $20 range at some point here in the quarter, and we’re just not inclined to play there,” McIntosh said. “We may do some things prior to Black Friday, but we’re not going to go wading into that. We don’t think we need to. “Believe it or not, we are selling at full price, although the volume is not as great as we would like,” McIntosh said. “But you know, I’m not inclined to lose a bunch of money when I don’t think we need to.”Image captured from Microsoft Webcast. Related Posts
Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable.,Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable. Instead, they offer up more arenas in which to debate who we are, what we want and the kind of society we want to live in.We build malls and sometimes visit themFor a time, the Citi Centre mall was just a 15-minute walk from my flat in Mylapore, Chennai. On my way, I would pass old temples, a huge garbage dump and an open-air fish market. I would drink coconut water on the way, saving myself from an expensive carbonated drink once inside. The mall itself-an ugly, faux renaissance construction-towered above this varied landscape and sported a gigantic metal generator to one side. Most people came to the mall in cars or on motorbikes and the roads around it were always jammed. I’m one of those who don’t like malls. But I did like the air-conditioning from April to July and going from one shop to the next without being sideswiped by a motorcycle or lashed by the sun.The rise of the consumer citizenGone are the days of relatives bringing mixies, jeans and lipsticks from abroad. Everything is available here now and there are thousands of billboards to remind you of just what you should aspire to have. On one hand, there is a greater openness to the outside world and more awareness of that world by the common woman and man. On the other, the divides between the “haves” and “have-nots” look more severe and callous. We are told the good life will trickle down, yet, looking around even so-called middle class areas, while professional salaries and purchasing power have risen, the lifestyles continue to be subsidised by the low-wage labour of the service class.advertisementThe way we move aroundCheaper domestic flights have intensified social and business networks as north, south, east, and west are within a few hours of each other. On the road, we are moving faster and in bigger vehicles. But we’re doing so on the same narrow, pot-holed roads as before. So we topple over each other, get stuck in smoke-filled jams, and in our haste, crush into one another, making Indian roads the deadliest in the world. Meanwhile, on the Delhi Metro, one mid-20s commuter told me that now she takes the Metro to work instead of the bus, cutting her commute time to half. Coining a new phrase and sensibility, she called her new way of getting around, “Delhi up-down”.We are being watchedOn the same Metro platform, CCTV cameras watch commuters’ every move, or so they say. At airports, movie theatres, central markets and elsewhere, we are searched. The management of these new technologies has created new industries of surveillance and is directed by a new techno-managerial class. Individuals in this class who are corruption-free are held up as beacons of hope, yet corrupt practices are still the rule rather than the exception.We are on the world stage of literatureLate JNU English professor Meenakshi Mukherjee was ambivalent about the success and hype of Indian English fiction. With a hint of lament, she would speak of her students who all wanted to be the next Arundhati Roy. Novels have become a way to judge a nation’s cultural worth, and hence they are political and cultural emblems, which is why we debate every shortlist, prize and prize refusal, though only when an Indian author is involved.There is more English that is less EnglishLast year while teaching at IIT-Madras, two things became clear to me. One, all of my students were very smart and second, each had a different command over the English language. One of them explained it this way: In school, English was taught to them as a “subject” but never as a “language”. As English has gone from being a colonial language to a global one, more Indians speak it; lower-class and lower-caste Indians rightly demand it, but the question of how and if it will be meaningfully incorporated into the education of Indians remains unclear.We walk and talk and message and blogEnglish has enabled some Indians to gain jobs in it and at call centres, but much more significantly, cellphones and the Internet have enabled Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and many more languages to flourish in new ways and move across borders like never before. In an average day, we speak at least three languages to different people for different things, often picking words from different languages to produce a melange that says it just right. The genius of Indian life surely resides in the multilingual reality of the day-to-day.advertisementWhat we eat has changed, and so have weFor 30 years, a great-uncle of mine owned two restaurants near his house in Nainital and took great pride in the fact that he never ate at either of them. We are known for being particular about our food. Yet, many have relaxed these restrictions and mark status in other ways. We eat and drink more kinds of things more quickly in more places than ever. But are we satisfied? Now, the middle classes are succumbing to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity, while the rural and urban poor are stuck with an extremely high rate of childhood malnutrition and stunted growth.We like to think we have replaced caste with classIt’s true that we look (and in some ways are) more alike as we sit side-by-side, from north to south, in salwar-kameez or pair of jeans, yet the vast majority of our marriage arrangements are still airtight, and who sits in an office and who in a slum still has everything to do with your father’s name. The post-Mandal Commission era didn’t bring back caste divisions; it just showed they never went away.How we say, “I love you”When it had been decided, in 1961, that my parents would marry, they went on a few outings to Connaught Place. Soon anonymous notes were slipped under the door of my father’s relative’s house, saying their behaviour was not setting a good example. Many years later, on a cool February evening, I was walking near the Delhi University campus with a female friend when three boys on a motorcycle stopped to grab at us. When we complained to a guard standing at a nearby college gate, he explained, “But madam, it is Valentine’s Day.” Earlier in the day, Hindutva activists had overturned chairs at the local Nirula’s to scare away couples and made a mess of an Archie’s card shop in Kamla Nagar market. The style of love is changing, but it still poses a problem.Rashmi Sadana is the writer’s book English Heart, Hindi Heartland: the Political Life of Literature in India is forthcoming from the University of California Press
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