Nov 05

Nil Stats Nisi Optimum

I’m about to become one of those boring and predictable writers, who every year says the same thing, so here goes!

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s that time of year already. Well actually it is, this is the final Blue Chip of the year and I really cannot believe that 2007 will be the fourth year in which I will contribute to the magazine. 

On behalf of many I think that a few “thank you’s” are needed. Firstly, to all the staff at Blue Chip, who have now created a truly first class product, I promise to try and keep up with you!  Secondly, to the newly constructed FPI leadership and the way they are taking the FPI boldly into the future. Well done to you all:  you are a credit to our industry!

Well that’s the year-end speech completed.  Now onto one or two matters that I feel have some interest to all of us as financial planners and asset managers.

One key component to any business is the customer and more importantly that there are enough existing and potential customers to justify that business’s existence.  This is, I suppose, why so much has been made of the so called black middle class and how, many people claim it is growing.

I have one concern about this whole debate and it is simply this – why are we so focused on a black middle class when as a country we have such a huge unemployment problem and a truly massive potential customer base trying to simply get one foot off the poverty line?

Have you ever seen a building constructed without foundations or a ship with only upper decks?  If we focused on creating a strong working class (lower middle class, if that is more PC) a trained and aspirational artisan nation, they like in every other country would be the rock on which a genuine and sustainable middle class would be built upon.

I was born a working class Lancastrian boy and may of my school and university friends still see themselves as working class people despite, in many cases, their present vastly improved lifestyles.  Being working class is not something anyone felt ashamed of we were proud to use the strength it gave us to go forward.  Our Mums and Dads worked hard to get us a start and often that involved our own hard work in traditional working class jobs, while at the same time educating ourselves. Their parents and their parents before them all did the same and many families moves incrementally forward or upward depending on your view of society.

We should spend our tax on education at schools and quality technical colleges, we should promote young people to become indentured (nothing to do with teeth!) in a trade and serve out that apprenticeship. This country, in fact the world, needs quality tradesmen, technicians and proficient support people.  This vast, broad and deep pool would be the very birth place of a truly sustainable middle class, be they black, white coloured or Indian!

Thinking about our tax and what it goes on invariably bring one to think of politicians and in SA over the last couple of years a fair few of our elected officials have fallen from grace, for one reason or another. It can be a little depressing to read about these things, but at least we can! Under the National Party corruption was simply institutionalized and the press censored, hence we heard very little about it.  So last week I was not surprised to sit and read my paper with familiar headlines: Old People Too Poor to Have Heating. Greedy MP’s Grab another 6 Million.MP’s Cushy Pension deal leaves a very sour taste. Apparently the state is now contributing 27% of MP’S salaries into their pension pots every year, in other walks of life the employer typically contributes six or seven percent.

Yet I was not downhearted and the reason was simple.  All the articles were from the British Press and concerned their society!  As 2006 draws to a close and we are a mere dozen years into democracy and decency, let’s not get too down on ourselves.  In Britain I think there was still some rationing 12 years after WW2!  Rome was not built in a century, never mind 12 years and personally I believe we will enter 2007 as a better country than we entered 206, now that’s worth paying tax for!

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