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Saturday, 25 July 2009

The unknown enemy

Everybody must be very happy to hear that Gill Marcus will be an enemy of inflation.

Milton Friedman stated correctly that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. Inflation only destroys the real value of the Rand and other monetary items in the SA monetary economy. Inflation has no effect on the real value of non-monetary items.

The economy consists of three parts:

1. The monetary economy - the Rand money supply and other monetary items like bank loans, credit card loans, home loans, student loans, etc.

2. The variable item economy - everything you see around you except actual money and bank/loan accounts: items with variable prices over time (cars, houses, products, etc)

3. The constant item economy - salaries, wages, rents, company issued share capital, retained profits in companies, trade debtors, trade creditors, taxes payable, taxes receivable, etc: items with constant real values over time (you know your salary or wage has a constant real value over time).

We all know that inflation is the enemy in the monetary economy. Inflation can only destroy the real value of the Rand and other monetary items - at 8% per annum at the moment. It has destroyed 93.2% of the real value of the Rand since January 1981. Cumulative inflation since then now runs at 1 354%. Taking it from another date: inflation has destroyed 61.9% of the real value of the Rand since April, 1994 because we have had 162% cumulative inflation since the start of the current government.

There are no enemies in the variable item economy because the market eventually kills all enemies to its proper working: variable items are mostly exchanged at market prices determined by supply and demand.

The enemy in the constant item economy has been killed off by COSATU and other trade unions in the past and in the present in salaries and wages. Trade unions ensured in the past and ensure in the present that the enemy of constant wages and salaries, accountants´ stable measuring unit assumption, is dead and stays dead. COSATU and other trade unions see to it that the real values of salaries and wages are measured in units of constant purchasing power. COSATU and other trade unions reject SA accountants´ stable measuring unit assumption: i.e. they see to it that salaries and wages are inflation-adjusted in a low inflation environment.
SA accountants´ stable measuring unit assumption whereby they simply assume there is no such thing as inflation (accountants simply assume the Rand is PERFECTLY stable for this purpose) is so ingrained in accountants´ minds that it has become a completely unknown enemy to the constant item economy as far as the valuation of SA companies´ issued share capital, retained profits, debtors, creditors, taxes payable, taxes receivable, etc are concerned.

Accountants - after very many years of pressure from trade unions - inflation-adjust salaries and wages in low inflation environments but they refuse point blank to measure financial capital maintenance in units of constant purchasing power although the International Accounting Standards Board authorized them to do exactly that 20 years ago in the Framework, Par. 104 (a) which states: "Financial capital maintenance can be measured in either nominal monetary units or in units of constant purchasing power."

SA accountants simply refuse to reject their stable measuring unit assumption during low inflation.
So, what is the result of SA accountants´ stable measuring unit assumption: they refuse point blank to update the existing real values of SA banks´ and companies´ existing retained profits, for example. This means they unknowingly destroy the existing real value of all SA banks´ and companies´ existing retained profits at a rate equal to the annual rate of inflation because they value these items in Rands. This amounts to them unknowingly destroying about R85 billion PER ANNUM just in the existing real value of existing retained profits of companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. They are unknowingly doing it right now.

It is conservatively estimated that they unknowingly destroy about R200 billion PER ANNUM in the existing real value of existing constant items never updated in the SA constant item economy. They are unknowingly doing it this year as they unknowingly did last year and as they unknowingly will do next year if they carry on with their stable measuring unit assumption.

What will happen when SA accountants follow the IASB´s advice given 20 years ago and stop their stable measuring unit assumption?

They will knowingly boost the existing SA constant item economy with at least R200 billion PER ANNUM for an unlimited period of time in the future - ceteris paribus - by simply maintaining instead of destroying existing real values in existing constant items. Now they destroy them with their stable measuring unit assumption. When they stop their stable measuring unit assumption they will maintain them.

SA accountants can not and do not create real value out of nothing by simply passing some accounting entries. They will boost the existing SA constant item economy by about R200 billion PER ANNUM for an unlimited period of time by not destroying existing real value in existing constant items as they did in the past and as they are doing right now whenever they stop their stable measuring unit assumption.


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