About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

10 January 2009

Choice, not Fate: The Life and Times of Trevor Manuel

Released just months after Mbeki was "recalled", the biography traces the story of Trevor Manuel - possibly South Africa's most admired minister; and certainly one of the most successful ministers.

It is a facinating tale, tracing back his family's roots, the impact of the Group Areas Act (which came trully into force when he was a boy), his political activities before and after the unbanning of the ANC (including his significant influence on the politics of the Western Cape) and his time as the minister of Finance.

And it is the last part, the process of how he came to head up the ANC's economic policies, to becoming the Trade and Industry minister before becoming the Minister of Finance, that is really enlightening.

There is significant discussion on how the ANC came to launch GEAR; and the arguments for and against various economic models. What is also interesting, is how Zimbabwe's economic outlook in 1994 (which the book describes as being very rocky, on the verge of collapse) affected Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni and the rest of the policy makers plans and decisions.

I had known about South Africa's debt accumulation - but the book is a facinating insight to how debt really affected South Africa's spending patterns - on why it was difficult to just pour money into building houses or delivering water. So was the discussion on why teachers and other crucial public service workers had to be laid off in the late 1990s - becuase there was trully over capacity on the fundamental infrastructures (there were teachers, but no schools that could use those teachers).

But perhaps, most striking of all was the account of the discussion of possible economic scenarios for South Africa. There were the two extremes - everything collapses and everything flourishes; both unrealistic. But there were the two other paths - the strong growth at first followed by a crash (similar to the Asian economies of the 1990s) or the slow growth at first followed by the strong sustained growth later. The fact that South Africa managed to follow the last path, was a political triumph as much as it was an economic triumph.

If nothing else, this book is a good discussion on the fundamentals of politics and economics. Two things that affect our daily lives. And that alone makes it worthwhile.

05 January 2009

Movie: Pride and Glory

A fairly predictable movie about New York cops - the familiar theme of good cops chasing up the bad cops who are doing deals on the side. The only twist in this saga - the good cops, the bad cops (and those in between) are all from the same family. Nothing special really.