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Global Risks Report 2020: US, China trade war unsettles the world

The Global Risks Report 2020, published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has indicated that from its survey, economic confrontations between major powers is the biggest risk facing the globe currently, while young people believe climate change present the biggest risk.

A “global risk”, in the context of the report, is defined as an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, it can cause significant negative impact for several countries or industries within the next 10 years. The survey was conducted from 5 September to 22 October 2019, among the World Economic Forum’s multi-stakeholder communities (including the Global Shapers Community, comprising of young people), the professional networks of its Advisory Board, and members of the Institute of Risk Management.

The survey focused on short-term risks, which is confined to the year ahead, as well as the long terms risks, focusing on the coming 10 years. When the survey was carried out respondents were asked to assess whether the risks associated with 40 current issues would increase or decrease in 2020 compared to 2019. Respondents were also given the option to name any other issue(s), not included in the 40 risks listed that they expect to be a source of increased risk in 2020.

According to the report, in the short term risks, the global economy is at risk of stagnation owing to rising trade barriers, lower investment and high debt that are straining economies around the world. “The margins for monetary and fiscal stimuli are narrower than before the 2008–2009 financial crisis, creating uncertainty about how well countercyclical policies will work,” the report indicated. The report noted that global trade, which for decades has been an engine for growth, is slowing down.

World Trade Organization (WTO) data for the first three quarters of 2019 shows that total world merchandise trade decreased by 2.9 percent from the previous year, it decreased in the world’s top ten traders, according to the report, further indicating that reduced trade volumes are largely the result of what the WTO has called “historically high levels of trade restrictions”.

The potential result, the report said, according to the IMF, could be global growth slowing by 0.8 percentage points in 2020, should the United States and China uphold existing tariffs or implement new ones. “While progress was made in late 2019 between the United States and China towards a trade agreement, the effects of having turned trade from an instrument of cooperation to a weapon of rivalry may persist,” he report observed.

Recent editions of the Global Risks Report warned of downward pressure on the global economy from macroeconomic fragilities and financial inequality. These pressures continued to intensify in 2019, increasing the risk of economic stagnation. Low trade barriers, fiscal prudence and strong global investment—once seen as fundamentals for economic growth—are fraying as leaders advance nationalist policies.

 The margins for monetary and fiscal stimuli are also narrower than before the 2008–2009 financial crisis, creating uncertainty about how well countercyclical policies will work. A challenging economic climate may persist this year: according to the Global Risks Perception Survey, members of the multi-stakeholder community see “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarization” as the top risks in 2020. Amid this darkening economic outlook, citizens’ discontent has hardened with systems that have failed to promote advancement.

Disapproval of how governments are addressing profound economic and social issues has sparked protests throughout the world, potentially weakening the ability of governments to take decisive action should a downturn occur. Without economic and social stability, countries could lack the financial resources, fiscal margin, political capital or social support needed to confront key global risks.

CLIMATE CHANGE FEARS PUT IN PERSPECTIVE

The survey, carried both on multi-stakeholders and Global shapers (a network of emerging young leaders around the world affiliated to World Economic Forum) concluded that in the long term risks, expected to happen in the next 10 years, climate change present the biggest risks. Extreme weather; Climate action failure; Natural disaster; Biodiversity loss; Human-made environmental disasters all featured in the top 5 in terms of likelihood.

The report indicate that Climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected. “The last five years are on track to be the warmest on record, natural disasters are becoming more intense and more frequent, and last year witnessed unprecedented extreme weather throughout the world,” the report said.

“Alarmingly, global temperatures are on track to increase by at least 3°C towards the end of the century—twice what climate experts have warned is the limit to avoid the most severe economic, social and environmental consequences.” The near-term impacts of climate change add up to a planetary emergency that will include loss of life, social and geopolitical tensions and negative economic impacts, the report said.

For the first time in the history of the Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental concerns dominate the top long-term risks by likelihood among members of the World Economic Forum’s multi-stakeholder community; three of the top five risks by impact are also environmental.  “Failure of climate change mitigation and adaption” is the number one risk by impact and number two by likelihood over the next 10 years, according to our survey. Members of the Global Shapers Community—the Forum’s younger constituents—show even more concern, ranking environmental issues as the top risks in both the short and long terms.

The Forum’s multi-stakeholder network rate “biodiversity loss” as the second most impactful and third most likely risk for the next decade. The current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years—and it is accelerating. Biodiversity loss has critical implications for humanity, from the collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains.

The report recognise that for the future of climate change mitigation, 2020 is a critical year, indicating that it presents the first opportunity for nations to revise their national plans to tackle climate change as set out under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and to close the gap between what they have pledged and what is needed. “An increasing number of governments are announcing long-term net-zero emissions goals and showing more interest in tackling outstanding challenges in developing potential low carbon solutions,” the report said.  

“These include creating a low-carbon hydrogen supply chain at scale; reducing emissions through carbon capture, use and storage; managing the intermittency of renewables with grid-scale storage solutions; electrifying domestic and commercial heating; better recycling of electric car batteries; and mapping out the future availability of the raw materials needed to support the transition. 


The report contended that achieving significant change in the near term will depend on greater commitment from major emitters, noting that failure to seize 2020’s opportunity to mitigate climate change will have three main consequences. First, transition risks will increase. Further delay in reducing emissions will make it harder to achieve carbon budget goals: companies and markets will ultimately be forced to adjust more rapidly, which could lead to higher costs, greater economic disruptions, or draconian interventions from panicked policy-makers that imperil macroeconomic and financial instability.

Communities will also suffer if jobs are lost without well-thought-through and equitable transition plans in place. Over 40 central banks and supervisors are already examining how climate risks can be integrated into their economic and financial activities.
According to the report, The Bank of England has warned that corporations in incumbent “dirty” industries can expect to go bankrupt if they fail to understand the risk of their business models becoming obsolete as investment flees to net-zero-emission alternatives.

The Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures announced recommendations in 2017 that have driven boardroom discussions regarding financial exposures and transition strategies. “Now supported by almost 900 companies, assessing financial risk of climate change is becoming more mainstreamed.

Governments are also moving towards mandatory disclosure of climate risks by listed companies,” the report said. The investor community is also responding to climate risk, according to the report, with a recent notable development being the launch of the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit

Short-Term Risk Outlook

*Risks expected to increase in 2020

Economic confrontations
Domestic political polarization
Extreme heat waves
Destruction of natural ecosystems
Cyberattacks: infrastructure
Protectionism on trade/investment
Populist and nativist agendas
Cyberattacks: theft of money/data
Recession in a major economy
Uncontrolled fires

Long-Term Risk Outlook

*Top 10 risks by likelihood and impact over the next 10 years

Extreme weather
Climate action failure
Natural disaster
Biodiversity loss
Human-made environmental disasters
Data fraud or theft
Cyberattacks
Water crises
Global governance failure
Assets bubble

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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