Global debt crises imminent – warns World Bank
The World Bank has dispatched a warning alert to world economies signaling imminent global debt crises that could results in unprecedented financial instability for most countries.
In its latest Global Economic Prospects (GEP) the Washington-based global lender says of the four waves of debt accumulation since the 1970s, the latest was the largest, fastest and most broad-based, mirroring the biggest buildup in borrowing in the past 50 years. “The size, speed, and breadth of the latest debt wave should concern us all,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “It underscores why debt management and transparency need to be top priorities for policymakers, so they can increase growth and investment and ensure that the debt they take on contributes to better development outcomes for the people.”
According to the Bank, signs are unavoidable and clearly visible that, there could still be a financial crisis even though historically low interest rates were making debts more manageable. “Low global interest rates provide only a precarious protection against financial crises,” said Ayhan Kose, a World Bank official. Kose says the history of past waves of debt accumulation shows that these waves tend to have unhappy endings. “In a fragile global environment, policy improvements are critical to minimize the risks associated with the current debt wave.” She said in the GEP.
Total emerging and developing economy debt reached almost 170% of gross domestic product in 2018 or $55 trillion, an increase of 54 % of GDP since 2010. China the world ‘s second largest economy after the United States accounted for the bulk of the increase in part due to its size but the build-up was broad-based, and included other big emerging economies such as Brazil.
The World Bank says financial turmoil in emerging and developing economies was one of the threats to its forecast of a slight strengthening of global growth this year, from 2.4% to 2.5%. The Bank’s Global Economic Prospects further says modest pick-up in activity would depend on a better year for some of the large emerging economies such as Argentina, Mexico and Turkey that struggled in 2019.
However the Bank stressed there were downside risks to its forecast. “This rebound is not broad-based; instead it assumes improved performance of a small number of large economies, some of which are emerging from a period of substantial weakness. About a third of emerging market and developing economies are projected to decelerate this year due to weaker-than-expected exports and investment.
The Washington headquartered global financier says major concern is that countries could be borrowing excessively stem from the recent history of financial distress, with each crash preceded by an accumulation of debt. The build-up since 2010 had been concentrated in emerging and developing countries rather than in advanced nations. In about 80% of emerging and developing economies total debt was higher in 2018 than in 2010 and the World Bank says there has been “navigating dangerous waters” because the current wave of borrowing had coincided with a decade of repeated growth disappointments.
Heavily indebted countries were now confronted by weaker growth prospects in a fragile global economy. By in large debt is said to be rising among emerging countries, in contrast with previous episodes such as the 1980s Latin American debt crisis when the debt build-up was region specific. More than a third of emerging and developing economies had experienced an increase in debt of at least 20 percentage points of GDP. In addition, debt accumulation had been in both the public and private sectors, which contrasted with past waves when the build-up was either by the government or private firms.
The World Bank says countries should seek to reduce the likelihood of crises and lessen their impact should they materialize by building resilient monetary and fiscal frameworks, instituting robust supervisory and regulatory regimes, and following transparent debt management practices. “However, high debt carries significant risks for emerging and developing economies, as it makes them more vulnerable to external shocks , the rollover of existing debt can become increasingly difficult during periods of financial stress, potentially leading to a crisis,” warns the global lender
Global Economic Growth
The World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects also noted that Global economic growth is forecast to edge up to 2.5% in 2020 as investment and trade gradually recover from last year’s significant weakness but downward risks persist. Growth among advanced economies as a group is anticipated to slip to 1.4% in 2020 in part due to continued softness in manufacturing. Growth in emerging market and developing economies is expected to accelerate this year to 4.1%.
The World Bank says following a year during which weak trade and investment dragged the world economy to its feeblest performance since the global financial crisis, economic growth is poised for a modest rebound this year. However, for even that modest uptick to occur, many things have to go right.
Emerging market and developing economies are anticipated to see growth accelerate to 4.1 percent from 3.5 percent last year. However, that acceleration will not be broad-based: the pickup is anticipated to come largely from a handful of large emerging economies stabilizing after deep recessions or sharp slowdowns. World Bank Group Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu says even this tepid global rally could be disrupted by any number of threats. “Trade tensions could re-escalate”.
Pazarbasioglu added that a sharper-than-expected growth slowdown in major economies would reverberate widely. “A resurgence of financial stress in large emerging markets, an escalation of geopolitical tensions, or a series of extreme weather events could all have adverse effects on economic activity.” He said
The World Bank economists further observed that even if the recovery in emerging and developing economy growth were to take place as expected, per capita growth would advance at a pace too slow to meet development goals. The Bank pins reform hopes on leaders noting that policy makers have it in their capacity to ensure the recovery not only stays on track, but even surprises to the upside. The World Bank official says recent policy actions particularly those that have mitigated trade tensions could augur a sustained reduction in policy uncertainty.
Countries could pursue decisive reforms to bolster governance and business climate, improve tax policy, promote trade integration, and rekindle productivity growth, all while protecting vulnerable groups. Building resilient monetary and fiscal frameworks, instituting robust supervisory and regulatory regimes, and following transparent debt management practices could reduce the risk of shocks, or soften their impact, and strengthen resilience against them.
“With growth in emerging and developing economies likely to remain slow, policymakers should seize the opportunity to undertake structural reforms that boost broad-based growth, which is essential to poverty reduction,” said World Bank Group Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
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