Saturday, January 26, 2008

But Bob, You Don't Understand!

I see South Africa is starting off the New Year with another spell of rolling blackouts. The government is now hinting at quotas. Seems like everything has to have quotas there.

I can just imagine the following conversation taking place.

American business man: “Hey Johan,” pronounced Jo-Ann, “why didn’t you came back to me about that email I sent you? I gave you a great price. I thought you would jump at the opportunity.”

Johan, Managing Director of a factory in South Africa: “What email?...Oh shit. The bloody power is off again and I can’t check my email.”

Bob, Vice President of Sales in an American company: “Well I had to make a decision by end of day. Sorry. But what are you guys doing about the company that supplies the electricity in your area? ”

Johan: “What do you mean by what are we doing. There’s little we can do. There’s only one supplier in the nation, Eskom. All they try to tell you is use less energy. I mean what kind of company tells its customers buy less.”

Bob: “What about the top management? Can’t the business sector and general folks put pressure on these guys to perform? Surely you can use the newspapers and TV to drive home the message.”

Johan: “Ja, but Bob you don’t understand. Eskom belongs to the government; it is part of the Department of Public Enterprises.” (What an ironic name.) “So the top guys are government appointees. They think like the government, and talk like the government. For goodness sake, the President’s spokesperson says it’s actually a positive situation that the country is growing to the extent that it is actually exhausting its electrical capacity. What bull is that? The idiot is now trying to insinuate we are victims of economic growth. Such a typical politician’s answer. Incompetence to plan for the future will never cross his mind. Sure the government has done some good to built village after village, providing new houses with electrical power to more people, to plug in their fridges and stoves, but they never took that one little step back in the beginning and ask where they are going to find all the electricity to feed these houses. What did they think? Electricity flowing through a hole in the sky like a never ending waterfall?”

Bob: “Johan, it seems we all have our problems. What you are experiencing now will happen in the near future here in the States too. Already California has its rolling blackouts from time to time. Demand has increased dramatically, but no one is building new power stations. Private companies claim the government regulations are too stringent, can’t make a decent profit. Claim they can’t build a plant in a desolated area either because it will be too far from its consumers. The government is doing nothing because they say it’s not their business to supply electricity. And the public; well the tree-huggers don’t want the environment damaged and although the Massachusetts and Maine coasts are ideal for generating green, wind energy, the rich don’t want their $10 million sea view spoilt. Everyone wants it in someone else’s backyard. But that’s also untrue. If I have to built a high tower to generate wind power in my backyard the neighbors will very quickly complain that the monstrosity will drive the value of their property down.”

Johan: “Ja I agree. People? We have the Cape, which is not called the Cape of Storms for nothing. The old Vaalies use to say the Cape is like a baby; if it’s not wet it’s windy. Lots of wind! But I don’t think the government will allow any private company to interfere with its electrical supply business (Strategic asset of national importance of course) by setting up a wind farm off the Cape coast. An ideal place though. I am surprised the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) guys have not yet convinced their buddies in the government to set up an alternative power generating industry. The “commissions” on offer for “consultations” are probably not yet big enough. In the mean time Eskom is spending big bucks on BEE companies that supply goods and services. So why whould the BEE boys worry to layout cash borrowed from the government for a wind powa-steshun.”

Bob: “Johan, time for me to go. I’ll keep you in mind when we have another sell off of raw materials. But I think next time I should call you instead. Your telephones are still working all the time, right?

Johan: “Ja, for the time being. The cell phone business is in private hands. Better you call me instead of emailing next time. Thanks for the offer. See yah.”

No comments: