A Bush Pub tale – An underfed Rand and what small businesses can do about it

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Credit: Death to Stock

Johan van Rooyen noticed the street posters on his way to work. The posters screamed out how the Rand had reached another record low. It was time, Johan thought, to speak to his pal Dave Jones. He gave him a call and they arranged to meet the next evening at the Bush Pub.

When Johan left the townhouse complex where he lived he noticed that outside that the dirt bins were piled to the brim with plastic bags full with rubbish. In front of the bins were more bulging black plastic bags. Johan had his car window open and the putrid, rotten smell of garbage reached his nostrils inside the car. “What can you do?” Johan thought. “This is the way we live.”

Inside the Bush Pub, Dave Jones was sitting at a table in the corner reading messages on his cellphone. He looked up and saw Johan walk into the bar.

“Hell man, you must’ve been thirsty,” Johan said. “You couldn’t wait for me, could you?”

“I’m running a tab at the bar,” Dave said. “The barman has been keeping a cold one for you.”

Johan went over to the bar, said hello to Simon, ordered his beer, thanked him and went over to their table.

“Isn’t it a dangerous thing Dave?” asked Johan, “to keep a tab running in a bar?”

“With you it is,” said Dave. “Soon as you leave I’ll square it up with Simon and that’s it for the night.”

“Wish the country wasn’t been run that way,” said Johan.

“They are running one huge IOU with everybody ordering themselves drinks and no one knowing who and when they going to pay for it. Johan, you said you want to talk about the Rand.”

“Man, I know what’s happening. This poor Rand of ours is become a starving bokkie.” Jan took out a one Rand coin from his wallet and showed it to Dave. “You see this, last year this time this little coin was worth less than the previous year. Now this coin is 30% lower. What can it buy you today?”

“You know, people knock the Rrand but it’s been good to us. It’s been good to me. I know how bad it is now but it helped me get a quality education from overseas, it helped me buy the materials I needed for my business, it’s helped me feed my children.”

“Yah, I know what you saying but what can I do about it? You know the kind of business I’m in. I rely big-time on imports and it’s costing me more.”

“Sure, if you are importing products and services, you are basically a price taker.”

“But what can I do? I don’t like the way things are going.”

“We are all in the same boat, Jan. I do know what you can do. If you haven’t got some money overseas after our last Rand crisis, then you can’t protect yourself in that small way. But if you doing a lot of importing, can’t you look for local sources of supply?”

“Yes, you’re right. It is not time now to take money off shore when the Rand is that these low levels. I should have done it a couple of years ago. When times were good. But yes, I think you’ve got a point about those imports. I’ll see what I can do in my business.”

“Isn’t there anything that you could do in your business or branch out from your business to export?”

“Now? I don’t think so. How am I going to export what I’m doing here for my local customers?”

“It might seem difficult, hard, in fact. But I’ve seen even small businesses selling skin oils overseas. I met a guy the other day who sells his fine art to American customers. They love what is doing here. Even guys and women in photography, clothing, music and writing books are now selling more overseas.”

“Nothing comes to mind,” said Johan. “But I’ll give it some thought. Maybe, just maybe there’s something I can think of that people in other countries will want. You know, my quality is very good. People are looking for that these days.”

A local musician, Rob, entered the bar with his guitar and started setting up his speakers, testing his microphone. He played his first number, “Proud Mary” by Credence Clearwater Revival.

“Suppose it’s going to get noisy in here,” said Dave. “Let’s have a last beer and get on the road home.”

“I’m settling the tab with you,” said Johan. “And I insist that you are going to pay for it all. Let’s not be like those other folk who are spending like crazy and don’t care less who eventually will have to pick up the tab.”

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