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Statistics S.A. (the government agency of facts and figures) have released a whole lot of interesting numbers. Such as the fact that 3.4 million more people now live in the country over a four year period. 

Fact is that we are a developing country as far as human resources go, with only 3% over the age of 65 and about a third under the age of 14. 94% of children up to the age of 15 attend a school though in 1999 16% of those over 20 could not read! 2.2 Million more people are currently unemployed which gives us a total number of 15.2 million that is not working. Housing increased during the five years that was surveyed (1995 to 2000) by 7% (up to 73%) and access to clean water by 4% (up from 79% to 83%). Statistics on telephone connections show a 6% increase though it's debatable how many of these connections are still active. With Telkoms big (abandoned) roll-out and subsequent cutting of services I'd be surprised if it's not less now compared to 1995. 

Electricity stayed at 50% - with a population increase of 3.4 million one can only assume (we know this as fact) that more people are using but less are paying for electricity. Toilets (or access to toilets) are also constant but more people are now using rivers, streams and bushes to squat.

The interesting part about the whole exercise was income. In October 1995 the average household income was R37 thousand. Considering inflation Statistics S.A. pegged it at R51 thousand in 2000 but more realistic at R45 thou. Problem though - with a white population estimated at just over 5 million out of a total population of 47.5 million (remember these are all estimations), which average household income did they concentrate on? Minimum wage for most industries are R2 000 (currently) with part-time domestic workers only now earning a minimum wage of R4.50 an hour, I'd say the 'realistic' R45 grand per household is a bit over the top. Average per capita income in '95 was R8 786 (see what I mean?) and in 2000 a 'realistic' figure of R11 755 is quoted. Household expenditure is up by only R3 000 to R40 thousand in 2000.

Concentrating on the poorest 20% it was found that they became even poorer. Total expenditure shows that people are paying less income tax (thanks to Trevor Manuel) and more on food. Housing is down (with government giving these away at ridiculously low prices - if not for free) and so is clothing. Insurance and education is marginally up but recreation is down - a sure sign that we're all struggling to make ends meet. The surprise came in the form of savings.  

We have a system here called 'stokvel' which assumes the role of banks. More the savings side of banks though. People club in and pay a set amount of money into the stokvel every month. The money collected is redistributed with contributors getting turns in receiving a 'bonus' every month. At least that's the way I understand it. The banks don't like this (for obvious reasons) but government can't stop it either. Government recognised this scheme as a way for the poor to still make a bit of a living, with banks ripping people off as far as any type of savings are concerned. Simple example - I had a savings account with ABSA (the United Bank) of over 2 grand. Not much by anyone's standards but it was mine. I forgot about this money (well, I tried my damndest) in the hope that with accumulated interests it might be a bit more over a three year period. Eventually I had to pay the bank money to close this account. It turned out that it's just too expensive to save! If the interest on your 'saved' capital is high enough to cover all the relevant and ridiculous bank charges, you might make some money, but not much. The stock market is definitely the route to go, but this was not covered by Statistics S.A. and a different subject altogether.

On the subject on money spending - The Star daily newspaper did a little survey on a Christmas shopping list (their typical list - not mine) comparing a couple of our bigger supermarkets (all of them actually). Seems Pick 'n Pay Hypermarket is the cheapest of the lot, beating the same groups Supermarket chain by 1 buck. Woolworths, where all the wannabees and have gots shop was a staggering R101.00 more expensive. If you're looking at a total of R317 compared to the Hypermarkets' R216, it's quite a difference. And shoppers still claim that Woolworths sells better quality stuff. We know that Woolworths mainly work on credit and rest on cash, so which has the better cashflow?

Some examples, a turkey at Woolworths is a whole 50 bucks more than Pick 'n Pay at R168 a kilo and custard 4 bucks more (R17). I might be classified as middle-class, but I'd rather shop where the poor people shop than get ripped off!

Note that all views expressed here are personal. Information sourced from various freely available material. Copyright where applicable. 
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