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Global Competitiveness Index: Botswana down one spot

The 2019 Global competitiveness report released by the World Economic Forum last week  shows that Botswana scored 55.49 points out of 100  , a notch up on the percent score  from 54.5 scored in the previous report but  one spot down on the rankings  from 90 to 91.

Competitiveness Index in Botswana averaged 15.85 Points from 2007 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 55.49 Points in 2019 and a record low of 3.96 Points in 2008. This year’s Global Competitiveness Report is the latest edition of the series launched in 1979 that provides an annual assessment of the drivers of productivity and long-term economic growth. With a score of 84.8 (+1.3), Singapore is the world’s most competitive economy in 2019, overtaking the United States, which falls to second place. Hong Kong SAR (3rd), Netherlands (4th) and Switzerland (5th) round up the top five.

Building on four decades of experience in benchmarking competitiveness, the index maps the competitiveness landscape of 141 economies through 103 indicators organized into 12 themes. Each indicator, using a scale from 0 to 100, shows how close an economy is to the ideal state or “frontier” of competitiveness. The pillars, which cover broad socio-economic elements, are: institutions, infrastructure, ICT adoption, macroeconomic stability, health, skills, product market, labour market, the financial system, market size, and business dynamism and innovation capability.

The report states that the world is at a social, environmental and economic tipping point with subdued growth, rising inequalities and accelerating climate change providing the context for a backlash against capitalism, globalization, technology, and elites. “There is gridlock in the international governance system and escalating trade and geopolitical tensions are fuelling uncertainty. This holds back investment and increases the risk of supply shocks: disruptions to global supply chains, sudden price spikes or interruptions in the availability of key resources,” observes the World Economic Forum.

The Global Competitiveness Report 2019 reveals an average across the 141 economies covered of 61 points. This is almost 40 points short of the “frontier”. It is a global competitiveness gap that is particularly concerning; given the world economy faces the prospect of a downturn. The report’s survey of 13,000 business executives highlights deep uncertainty and lower confidence. The report says while the $10 trillion injection by central banks is unprecedented and has succeeded in averting a deeper recession; it is not enough to catalyse the allocation of resources towards productivity enhancing investments in the private and public sectors.

With the 2018 edition, the World Economic Forum introduced a new methodology, aiming to integrate the notion of the 4th Industrial Revolution into the definition of competitiveness. It emphasizes the role of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility, as not only drivers but also defining features of economic success in the 4th Industrial Revolution. . By analyzing more than 100 indicators of competitiveness, the Forum’s work aims to unveil the secrets of the strongest performers and showcase what they’re doing well, encouraging other policy-makers to learn from their peers.

Infrastructure was an area of excellence, with Singapore’s roads, ports and airports placing it top. And it came first for health, with the average person expected to enjoy 74 years of healthy life. It scores well for financial stability and also for the quality of its public institutions, which come second only to Finland’s. As per the 2019 rankings, Botswana remains in fourth spot when gauged against Sub-Saharan African countries, with Mauritius in the lead, followed by South Africa, and the Seychelles.

SLOW ICT ADOPTION SCORING BOTSWANA LOW

In the 4th industrial revolution era, countries are gauged predominately by how much they embrace digital and new technological advancements. Botswana is noted to be lacking in that aread, with many of the country’s population having no access to internet. To pick up Botswana’s ICT infrastructure stance, this week Government launched Fiber-to-Home Technology, which is expected to give unlimited bandwidth for internet connection to homes.

Minister of Transport and Communications, Dorcus Makgato said connection of the Fibre to the Home technology enhance sustainable transformation of Botswana into a knowledge based economy. “This would enable growth of small businesses to augment contribution to the gross domestic product,” she said when lunching the project implemented by Botswana Fiber Network (BOFINET) in Gaborone this week.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.

He was speaking in  Parliament on Tuesday delivering  Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a  motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.

The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.

The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.

The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.

This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.

Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.

Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.

However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.

Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.

When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.

This  as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.

Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.

The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.

Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.

In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.

Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.

Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.

Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.

Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance   Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”

He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”

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