Quick Notes

Given OWS, I am intrigued by what appears to be the Kenyan non-reaction to recent articles on the banking system.

Banks Making Killing on Loans

Commercial banks have reported Sh65.3 billion in pre-tax profit for the first nine months of the year.

Overall, the industry generated Sh175.8 billion in revenue, of which 86 per cent came from interest, fees and commissions charged to customers for borrowing and transacting and 15 per cent from lending money to the government.

Of the money the banks were lending, 75 per cent came from customer deposits. On average they were paying 1.3 per cent for money deposited while charging a minimum of 14 per cent on loans.

The banks’ interest spread averaged 12.7 per cent in the nine months to September 2011 compared to 10.15 per cent per in a similar period last year, defying CBK’s reforms to cut operating costs among commercial banks which were aimed at reviewing interest spreads.
. . .
The higher interests on loans combined with lower costs of loans which have seen banks report double-digit-profits in the nine month period, is now raising questions on the reasons behind the recent increase in lending rates at a time when banks are preparing for the third wave of interest rate hikes.

Equity Bank Raises Interest Rate to 25%

Equity Bank has joined banks that have recently increased their interest rates on loans, spelling hard times for borrowers, most of who are in small-and -medium enterprises.

Through an advertisement in the press on Wednesday, the bank raised its interest rates to 25 per cent up from 14 per cent, with effect from November 15.

Note: Equity is considered the “mwananchi’s bank,” a place where everyone can bank without the weirdly elitist restrictions of other banks. (I’m yet to open a Kenyan bank account because I find their requirements absurd, especially the “letter of introduction” from an existing bank customer.)

Banks Dabbling in Usury
Though mostly indifferent to sports, but not the beauty of sportsmen—I’m weak, sue me—I am fascinated by the Penn State scandal, and not only because I attended a Big Ten school, where I learned the sacred place sports traditions occupy (racism was fine for a long time—simply tradition!). I have nothing intelligent to add to what’s been written. I have read the Grand Jury report—many people claim it sickens them. It’s bad, so read with care if you do. And I have been tracking the various ways this incident is being addressed.

I am intrigued by arguments about men’s cultures of discretion that sanction abuse, even as I think we need to be a little more deliberate about the “tax” one might have to pay to participate in those cultures. If “tax” sounds cold and clinical, certainly to speak of sexual abuse as “tax” seems that way, it is because I’d like to foreground the multiple economies at stake in this scandal: it is about money and masculinity as they meet in elite athletics. It is also about the price young, vulnerable men often pay to enter into these economies.
We have settled into the muffled rhythms of war. If the MSM are no longer beating the war drums as loudly, it is because their sentiments have taken on a persistent, unquestioned throbbing that saturates all our interactions. In a “new-ish” strategy, a host of Somali-sounding names have been recruited to write for the newspapers—or have been given space to support the war.

See, we are being told, even those with Somali-sounding names support this war!

I am not on facebook, where I am told very interesting discussions are happening. Nor am I on twitter, though I have seen Shailja Patel engaging the Kenyan military leader of this thing we are doing.

It is a strange thing to settle into the rhythms of a war from the safety of soundproofed rooms. We are at war, but it’s not clear that we grasp what that means or that we are even allowed to. We are at war. This must be repeated because it is the easiest thing to forget. And I wonder about the ease of modern warfare that depends on its power to make us forget or not care.
Kenya University Staff are on strike. Given their ridiculous teaching loads, abysmal pay, and generally poor working conditions (including strange restrictions on travel and further study), it’s about time.

The Universities are in pretty poor condition, as well.
Aaron Bady continues to provide amazing coverage of Occupy Oakland. I especially like this action-reaction post.
The short rains continue. And the potholes are deepening.