Archive for December, 2010

Becoming a criminal

December 30, 2010 6 comments

I was struck by the last sentence in this article.

“Watching TV without a valid licence is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000.”

Given the invasive nature of TV licence inspectors and the ruthlessness with which they pursue their objectives, I imagine that quite a few, otherwise harmless citizens, find themselves with criminal records. In the event, albeit unlikely, that I were to be successfully prosecuted for not owning a television licence and thus categorized as a criminal, I think that I would be more, rather than less, inclined to commit further crimes. There is an old saying, ‘one may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb’ and I think this is a perfect example of how the pettiness of self-serving law-makers  has the unintended but predictable result of creating more law-breakers. Having a criminal record creates all sorts of difficulties in a person’s life including inhibiting one’s ability to travel,  denying one job opportunities, prohibiting one from becoming a company director and so forth. I do not want a criminal record, but were I to have one, it would no longer serve as a deterrent. Tax evasion, amongst a host of other crimes, would suddenly become a real consideration. By branding me a criminal, you turn me into one. That is of course if one assumes I have no moral inhibitions.

Categories: General, Politics Tags: , ,

Downton Abbey

December 19, 2010 19 comments

Last week I was lent the complete first series of Downton Abbey on DVD. It has not been shown here in South Africa, nor do I expect it to be, but I was aware that it had caused a bit of a stir in Britain when it was broadcast there earlier this year and so I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to watch it. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely and eagerly anticipate the second series. Read more…


December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

The South African Government has recently awarded a R4.28 bn (about £400m) contract to a number of pharmaceutical companies for the supply of HIV ARVs. My interest in this lies purely with the mechanics involved in  the fulfilment of the tender process. A local company, Adcock Ingram has expressed surprise and disappointment that it was allocated a very small portion of the contract, only 4%. The company manufactures its products locally. Its chairman has written to the government minister involved, asking for details of how the decisions were made. Adcock has been around for 120 years and is well established and respected. According to the rules of the tender, bidders were awarded points in three categories. Up to 90 points were for price, eight for local manufacturing, and two for BEE (Black Economic Empowerment). When the Treasury named the winners, it provided the total number of points awarded to each successful bidder for each product, but did not give a breakdown by category or explain how points were determined. I think most people would applaud the low level given to BEE, 2%, and would respect efforts by the government to reduce spending by giving such weighting towards price . However,  I think I would have preferred to see more points awarded for the local manufacturing element. After all it would mean that South African money stays in South Africa and presumably taxes paid by local companies would offset some or all of any price differential. Adcock had hoped to win a the contract to supply  Efavirenz which it manufactures under licence from Merck. It failed. Read more…

Categories: Politics Tags: ,

Holy Knight

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

It was Boxing Day, yet the chairman, along with a skeleton staff, had come to the office to work on the press release that he would issue early next month. On the screen in front of him was displayed the company’s latest sales report. It made depressing, if unsurprising, reading. Things were not looking good at all, though at least a small profit was forecast, which was more than was likely to be the case for his rivals. As welcome as this was, it was not going to prevent the huge number of redundancies that would be forthcoming in the New Year; redundancies which came on top of several store closures and associated job losses that he and his board had been forced to impose 6 months earlier. Read more…