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Ready....or not ready for 2010?

Now, what is to be believed?

The South African government and local spokespeople involved with preparations for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa continuously and repeatedly state that "everything will be ready in time, including the new stadiums". But, then one reads articles like this one from today's "The Guardian" in the UK:

Fifa sets aside £400m for World Cup collapse

Matt Scott
Wednesday April 2, 2008
The Guardian

Fifa has been forced to build a £400m contingency fund to cater for the possible collapse of the 2010 World Cup.
Insurers are holding off on a decision to provide coverage for the event in South Africa amid fears that the stadiums will not be ready in time. Assessors for Munich Re, the German insurance giant which insured the 2006 tournament in Germany, are concerned about progress.

"The situation is quite difficult and fluid," said a spokesman for Munich Re. "The problem is they need 10 stadiums and some of these are rugby grounds that are run-down and in a very bad condition."

A Fifa insider admitted that insurance companies also had concerns about security, transport infrastructure and the local political climate. In a press release after its executive committee meeting last month the world governing body said: "Fifa is aiming at reserve capital of over $800m by the end of 2010."

This column can reveal that the decision reflects fears over insurance support for the tournament. Although Fifa is prepared to cover its commercial obligations for the 2010 tournament, which is the pet project of the president, Sepp Blatter, future bids - such as England's for 2018 - must provide evidence of adequate insurance support.

Next year's Confederations Cup - a World Cup dry run - may not go ahead as scheduled, but a Fifa spokesman insisted there were no internal concerns over the World Cup.

End of article.

What caught my eye was this phrase: "...insurance companies also had concerns about security, transport infrastructure and the local political climate".

So, there are others who think political stability is but "skin deep" in South Africa at the moment.

The political shakiness (if one can call it that...the "Kampf" for power between two factions in the ANC and their leaders, Mbeki and Zuma), which has been dragging on for years now (and has seen Zuma's dismissal as deputy-president by Mbeki and Zuma's political resurrection by his faction in the ANC in December last year) has had a negative effect on the people, the economy and the country in general.

Take just one level: policymaking and policy decisions. There has been a row of "sub-optimal decisions" and a few downright wrong decisions lately by senior decisionmakers and cabinet (Also see articles below this one). My gut tells me this happened, because the players haven't had their eyes on the ball for a while now.

The abovementioned "Kampf" distracted them...and still distracts them. To date this has costed the country a lot of money and it will lead to the loss of more money (in the form of growth not realised) in coming years.

I wonder if the players realise this. Or, are they too involved in "Their Kampf"?
2.4.08 11:22


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Ready...or not for 2010: a rejoinder

Fifa today said the story published by The Guardian in the UK on Wednesday (read article below) was "factually wrong". Unfortunately, Fifa's statement on the issue was one of those which typically make journalists go "aha, so the article WAS correct".

Here is what an anonymous blogger thought of the story and Fifa's response:

Quote:

"The guys at Fifa are huffing and puffing about claims in a UK paper (to the effect) that Fifa has been forced to establish a £400-million (R6.1-billion) contingency fund to cater for the possibility of the collapse of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. How's this for a strange denial? They said that the £400-million claim is “factually wrong” ... and that "Fifa was obliged, in terms of its own statutes, to build cash reserves".

End quote:

My take: Where there's smoke, there's always a fire.
4.4.08 16:39


Just for the record...

This was published a few minutes ago. I found it on the SABC News site. For the sake of readers prone to attacks of pessimism, I lifted just two paragraphs (the first two) of the story.

Here we go:

"South Africa has the world's highest brain drain and worst skills shortages of 55 countries studied and its productivity is plummeting. This is according to Productivity SA and the 2007 World Competitiveness Yearbook.

"South Africa also ranked last on infrastructure, internet costs, health problems, availability of qualified engineers and life expectancy. Surprisingly enough, its top rating of number one last year for electricity supply, is likely to plummet this year."

Enough, enough, I hear you say.

OK, but to those who think I've been overly pessimistic and black in my writing on South Africa lately: Actually, I think I've held myself back quite nicely. My gut tells me we are at the start of a very bad patch for SA.
14.4.08 11:39


Farting in the wind

On 14 April the Brit Seamus McCauley wrote on his well-known blog Virtual Economics: "I don't know of a worse sign for an industry's future than that it starts asking for government subsidies (Techdirt). But that's apparently what Frank Blethen, president of the Seattle Times company, is proposing."

So, in Canada newspapers have come to a point where they feel they need government help to survive the web-attack.

Today, newspapers in Germany revealed the same fear. With the added extra: They've (apparently) already successfully lobbied the German government for help, because the Minister of Culture announced today that it'll pay for a national initiative to win young readers back for newspapers.

(In fact, the press statement refers to the wider "printed media", including things like books, but, one must read between the lines here. For instance, book publishers are not among the supporters of the initiative listed in the German press statement (see below). So, the initiative came from, is supported by and for the main benefit of local newspapers).

In other words, the German government launched an initiative to try and brake the unbelievable winning streak of the Internet. As McCauley said (for a different, but similar set of facts, if you catch my drift, bro): This is a sad moment and doesn't auger well for the future of the printed product.

Of course, initiatives of this kind are born to fail. They can be likened to an effort to keep the sea level from rising by carting sea water away by the bucket load. In South Africa we would say: It's like farting in the wind.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's newspapers for the comment of the editors. If they are able to look at this thing objectively (I doubt it), they must shoot the government initiative down with a double-barrelled bazooka. Should taxpayers be expected to finance an effort to keep newspapers alive (if they are about to die - which I don't think is the case, anyway) and (indirectly) break the full unfolding of the Internet? I don't think so. And I don't think that is what the (average) German voter wants.

So, in my opinion, the Merkel government layed a big, fat egg here.

Afternote:

For the German readers, here is the announcement (extract):

Im Bundeskanzleramt läutete am Donnerstag vormittag Kulturstaatsminister Bernd Neumann die "Nationale Initiative Printmedien" ein. Was wie eine Bedrohung klingt, hat tatsächlich einen löblichen Hintergrund. Die Initiative setzt sich zum Ziel, junge Menschen für gedruckte Medien zu begeistern. Zu den "Initiativpartnern" zählen der Zeitungs- und Zeitschriftenverlegerverband, der Verband deutscher Lokalzeitungen, der Deutsche Presserat, der Verband der Jugendpresse, die Stiftung Presse-Grosso und der Bundesverband Presse-Grosso, der DJV und die Deutsche Journalistenunion, die Stiftung Lesen und die Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.
17.4.08 22:29


Why it's a strange move - a rejoinder

Maybe it's not so strange (if one can politely call it that), that the German government will be using taxpayers' money to promote newspapers (see article below). Or, that the government will, in fact, be discriminating against other media (eg. radio and the Internet) by helping newspapers.

Maybe the strangest thing about this all is that the help (and money) will come from the ministry of culture. This makes the issue really "explosive", in my opinion. How did government get to the idea that newspapers and newspaper-reading is culture and, therefore, worth protecting? How is newspaper-reading a "more cultural activity" than, say, listening to the radio, surfing the web, or...yes!....or listening to music on the old 12' vinyl long-playing records? Why are these media forms not promoted?

If the help came from, say, Herr Glos and his ministry of economics, then it might (yes, might) still have been OK - if he motivated it with the "we want to avoid the destruction of jobs" argument.

But, from the ministry of culture? And then specifically in the form of an initiative to get the youth to read more newspapers? Nein.

The youth is into the Internet. That's fact. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing one can do against that. It's one of those big trends I've written about before - in the same category as the trend towards globalization and the trend against apartheid in the 70s and 80s.

What the newspapers might have done, is approach government (probably Glos) for direct financial assistance of the restructuring/re-focussing task facing them in the digital era.

That might (yes, might) almost have been acceptable.
18.4.08 11:03


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