The first leg of President Obama's trip to Africa begins in the nation of Senegal. The nation is 94% Muslim, its official language is French, and it is home to a statue larger than the Statue of Liberty. African Renaissance is a colossal copper statue that cost the nation more than $20.0 million plus a large swath of land paid to its North Korean builders.
The statue is magnificent but not without controversy.
From its price tag, to its design, and even to the length of the woman's skirt there is a fair amount of bitterness. Muslim leaders call the statue idolatry as it was designed by former president Abdoulaye Wade largely in his (younger image). Beyond the egotistical aspect of the statue many wonder why it's based on old Soviet-style socialist realism. Of course, President Obama's "Forward" reelection slogan was a throwback to European Marxis' slogans that dominated during the battle with capitalism and democracy.
So many people in Senegal are skeptical of why their nation was chosen. Sure, there's pride but few think anything will change once the visit is over. Moreover, the nation had to endure its previous president's overbearing indulgence and illusions of grandeur. Per capita GDP is $1,000, making the statue an extravagance that can't be justified. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Soon Wade's son and former Minister of Earth and Sky will face trial for stealing $1.2 billion from the country.
I understand it's a moving place to visit, especially walking through Goree Island where slaves were auctioned off, which why this would have been more appropriate once the First Family was out of the White House and spending their own dimes. George Bush pumped millions into the nation, and America is still not a real economic player. The North Koreans built African Renaissance, bringing in all their own workers, and the Chinese are aggressively moving in as a trading partner and investor.
> Senegal's top export partners: Mali 19.6%, India 7.2%, and France 5.5%
> Senegal's top import partners: France 19.7%, United Kingdom 15.2%, and China 6.7%
That African Renaissance statue is amazing but also a monument to arrogance of leadership and a not-so-subtle ode to old school Marxism.
A lot of people in Senegal and America wonder why this country is on the President's itinerary and many question the African trip in general (could cost Americans up to $100.0 million). Maybe that statue holds the answer.
Speaking of Ostentatious
Although he almost lost his home, last year apparently rapper Flo Rida found the cash to take his $1.7 million whip and add a $1.8 million layer of gold. The Bugatti is certainly going to standout even among all the nice rides that cruise Miami Beach every night. I don't have any beef with it as long as taxpayers don't end up picking up the tab.
Despite all that gold, the precious metal was crushed again yesterday.
Something odd has occurred with the gold trade. All that Fed money printing hasn't triggered the wild bout of inflation that should've kicked in a couple years ago when gold peaked at $1,897 on September 5, 2011. The seeds are planted, but there is no velocity on that money-it's simply not seeping into the Main Street. I think it will; until then gold is also suffering from all that marketing of it as the key component in the doomsday survival kit along with batteries, systems to make dirty water drinkable and compasses.
Getting a free pass in this carnage are the same people screaming about the risk of owning shares of companies like IBM or Boeing. In fact, just after misreading a 9,000 point rally for the Dow these curmudgeons and fear-mongers sniffed out a chance to predict disaster once more. I happen to share the same basic line of thought, but I also comb through income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements along with investor presentations and other data each day and night. There are good companies out there worth owning.
Gold is worth owning, too, but it shouldn't be the only asset you have in your possession.
A gold car is worth owning if you think the hits will keep coming, but if you damn near lost your house a year ago-stick to the all-chrome whip.
It's interesting to see stocks higher on "good" economic data. Incomes were stronger than expected in May although the increase in spending didn't increase at the same pace resulting in a bump of savings to 3.2%. It's clear consumers are still living in the moment in large part because of stagnant wages. Considering the major decline in this data for April the rebound is a relief but it remains to be seen if this is the start of a longer term trend.