President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s first year to lead the country into general elections comes with heavy burdens on his shoulders.
A respected think tank, Moody’s Investors Service sees a challenge of higher wages and protruding capital expenditures against an economy chiefly dependent on mineral revenue while it shows no further attempt of implementing drastic revenue-raising measures. In a bar graph representation, Moody’s demonstrates that Botswana has a higher wage bill as a percentage of the GDP. The think tank also shows that the capital expenditure and this could be due to investment on mineral projects like the recently launched P21.4 billion Cut 9 project.
Moody’s new presentation shows Botswana wage bill to be around 12 percent as almost equating with that of South Africa but lower than that of eSwatini and Namibia. The latest Moody’s report was focused on sovereigns in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) which the think tanks said they plan further fiscal consolidation to stabilize their elevated debt burdens and reduces pressures on their credit profiles.
It further stated that these plans are generally set under assumptions of broadly stable economic and financing conditions. In the event of shocks, scope to cut government spending rapidly and significantly, or spending flexibility, allows sovereigns to broadly adhere to their plans and lends resiliency to fiscal strength. In the latest report, Moody’s proposed a measure of spending flexibility in SSA consistent with its earlier work for other regions, to inform our assessment of the resilience of fiscal strength to potential shocks.
“Expenditure flexibility, the result of structural features and recent measures, partly determines the resilience of fiscal strength. While SSA sovereigns are generally planning to consolidate their budgets in a way that should stabilize debt, they now face potential negative economic and financing shocks with a weaker starting fiscal position than five years ago.
Expenditure cuts are often easier to implement quickly than revenue-raising measures. Fiscal strength will likely be more resilient for those with capacity to cut expenditure quickly and significantly in the face of a shock,” says Moody’s report. For this country when looking at expenditure on borrowings, Moody’s says Botswana saw only a marginal increase in their interest expenditures.
The agency also said in some cases, higher interest expenditure offset a significant amount of the reduction to spending on wages and transfers, the other components of mandatory spending. Therefore, with Botswana having less interest expenditure pundits may argue that expenditure on wages may be raised as many believe this country’s salaries are below what is expected. Other pundits may cite Botswana’s high capital expenditure as the reason why Masisi’s regime may remain cautious when spending. In this year of elections, calls on spending remain deafening.
Moody’s shows Botswana currently lingers deep in between flexible and severely constrained SSA countries when it comes to mandatory spending. Moody’s measure expenditure flexibility as the share of discretionary spending (capital expenditures and spending on goods and services) in total expenditure. The remainder consists of spending on parts of the budget that governments generally cannot cut rapidly or which can be adjusted more easily over a longer period of time (interest payments, salaries & wages, and transfers).
The rating agency further states that higher borrowing costs and increased debt burdens saw interest expenditures increase over the four year, like it’s a case for Botswana. The time for the polls has become almost ripe with only a matter of weeks Batswana will be lined up to vote for what they expect and what they were promised. Botswana’s elections are held after every five years and Moody’s has noted that this country together with most SSA sovereigns plan to consolidate their budgets to stabilize debt as they are now more vulnerable to potential negative economic and financing because they are in a weaker fiscal position than five years ago.
In January this year Moody’s said Botswana was going at a snail’s pace in fiscal consolidation efforts and this could increase policy uncertainty ahead of the 2019 general elections. This was before Masisi increase salaries in April. According to the rating agency, ahead of elections in Botswana, the authorities have been envisaging a more gradual pace of fiscal consolidation.
The mandatory spending factor and political pressure
While Masisi may have increase salaries in April this year and adjusted wages of disciplined or armed forces later, something which some of his critics call political gimmick, he has a bigger headache of managing high wages and walking along the boundaries of mandatory spending. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has always advised Botswana to reduce its wage bill which has been seen to be higher than expected.
April this year, the season of the national polls, Masisi led a government initiative to increase public servants salaries for financial year 2019/20 with an increment of 10 percent for scales A and B and 6 percent for scales C and D. Last year IMF suggested that Botswana cut the size of its civil service, something which Masisi appeared to have almost heeded to when he faced the international media on the issue when he said, “we are more efficient, we are leaner, meaner, and we can do business and we are more attractive to the private sector for them to invest”.
However this was quickly tackled by critics including legislator-cum-economist Ndaba Gaolathe, who said there is no compelling evidence that can suggest that Botswana is in a desperate anomaly that requires it to cut off the size of its civil service. Masisi may have toyed with the idea of trimming jobs despite him being a self-proclaimed “Jobs President” just as he assumed office. He is yet to implement National Employment Policy and has been promising jobs in the time when Botswana faces worst record of income inequality and high unemployment rate.
Meanwhile it has been reported that the April salary increment adds additional cost of a little more than P1 billion per annum to government. It is also said the government wage bill is high by international standards, as it currently stands at 11.3 percent of GDP, against the international threshold of 5.0 percent of GDP. Moody’s places the wage bill at around 12 percent of the GDP and recognizes its loftiness when compared to its Sub-Sahara Africa counterparts. Observers believe Masisi is going to be careful with his spending despite a further call for wage hike.
On the dark-point the budget proposals for the 2018/2018 overall balance is estimated at a deficit of P6.35 billion (or 3.3 percent of GDP), which is expected to worsen to P7.79 billion (or 3.8 percent of GDP) in 2019/2020. A major factor when government considers further spending, an add to Masisi’s headache. Also, government acknowledges positive growth of 4.5 percent in the domestic propelled by non-mining sectors but points to a declining global economy which grew by 3.6 percent in 2018 and is anticipated to only grow at 3.3 percent in 2019.
Bank of Botswana however has said the new salary hike will not in anytime have any inflationary effect or cause a collapse. The central bank also said the wage increase will not shake the domestic economy. Already trade unions are seeking for a further increase of salaries.
A Malaysian private firm Performance Management and Delivery Unit(PEMANDU) who conducted a salary adjustment on behalf of the Directorate of the Public Service Management (DPSM) “remunerations system project report for grades A to D” was unfazed by government’s lack of funds to spend on increase of wages. Government hired PEMANDU as a consultant at a tune of P 17, 6 million.
On the issue of high wage bill, PEMANDU sees that as an excuse by government to avoid motivating its workforce. “The increase in wage bill represents approximately 10.3 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), the current wage bill being 9.4 percent of GDP. This is still below the regional Sub-Saharan bench mark of 11 percent,” states the report.
The PEMANDU proposal if implemented will add an additional P1.23 billion per annum. PEMANDU has made a proposal of a salary hike of 20 percent for grades A and B; 10 percent for grades C and D and 15 percent for grade E and F. According to the Malaysian firm the new implementation was to bridge the widening gap between lower and higher paid civil servants, while higher grades of E and F should receive no increment in the proposals and keeps their range.
Government before increasing salaries for the public sector in April has always promised that the PEMANDU report will be implemented. However recently something seems to have changed, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane made an announcement suggesting that government is constrained to put more funds for increment of civil servant wages as per the PEMANDU report.
Homegrown LED light manufacturing company, The Bulb World, has kick started operations in South Africa, setting in motion the company’s ambitious continental expansion plans.
The Bulb World, which was partly funded by Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) at the tune of P4 million, to manufacture LED lighting bulbs for both commercial and residential use in 2017, announced last year that it will enter the South African market in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of North West province under the auspices of North West Development Corporation (NWDC).
The company has already secured a deal with South Africa authorities which entails production factory shells and tax incentives arrangements.
The company founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ketshephaone Jacob has also previously stated that the company is looking for just under P50 million to finance its expansion strategy and is reaching out to institutional investors such as Botswana Public Officers Pensioners Fund (BPOPF) and government investment arm, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC).
However, Jacob told WeekendPost that instead of sitting and waiting for expansion funding the company has started hitting the ground running.
“We have decided to get in the streets of SA, start selling lights from door to door, ” said Jacob who is in currently in Rusternburg to oversee the introduction of The Bulb World products in the market.
Jacob explained more brand activations will be undertaken in South Africa. “The plan is to do it the whole of North West and Limpopo province, through hawkers, we give the hawkers the lights to sell at a factory price and they put a mark up and make a living,” he said.
The Bulb World operates from Selibe Phikwe, it currently employees 65 young people, 80 % of which are Phikwe youth. The company plans to add 100 jobs this year alone as it forges ahead with its regional and continental expansion plans.
In July this year Bulb World products will hit South African Shelves: Pick n Pay, Checkers and Africa’s largest retailer Shoprite.
The Bulb World has been registered as a company in South Africa; the company will start producing lights from Mogwasa after striking a special economic zones deal with North West Development Corporation in North West Province South Africa.
“Over the next 10 years we are looking to create over 5,000 jobs in Africa. Through our expansion into all of Africa we will be able to create employment for various individuals in different sectors namely; manufacturing, distribution electronics and retail,” Jacob told this publication earlier this year.
Jacob said if all goes well, the plan is to have taken over Africa or rather penetrated, and have prevalent presence in the African market.
“We are gunning to have at least 30 percent market share by then. According to a 2016 Market Survey, the total valuation of sales for LED Lighting was 57BN, a portion of which we plan to have taken over by then,” he said.
While the company has set its eyes on Africa, Jacob said, the company has not fully exploited its local growth, indicating that there could be strategic factories built to supply neighbouring countries of Angola and Zimbabwe.
“There is potential for further local expansion as well to other areas of Botswana if things run smoothly as anticipated. Hopefully in the long-term if our fellow Africans and all these markets receive us well we are planning to build another factory,” he said.
“We are looking to build another factory in the Chobe/Ngamiland Area that will give priority to markets in Zimbabwe and Angola,” he said
The Maun based Okavango Research Institute (ORI) has downplayed the impacts of oil and gas exploration in part of Okavango delta arguing that given the distance proposed the likelihoods of negative impacts drilling these exploration wells on the surface water systems is likely to be negligible.
The Institution released a position paper titled ‘Proposed Petroleum (Oil and Gas) Exploration Operations in the Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) No. 73,’ with findings stating that, in the event of discovery of economically viable hydrocarbon deposits, much more careful consideration of the impacts and economic benefits of development of the resource will be needed.
For example, the fracking process for gas and oil extraction is known to require large volumes of underground water.
It further argues that increased extraction of the underground water is likely to affect the water table level and further affect the overall water availability in the river-basin.
“The effect on water availability and use may become worse if surface water is reticulated or sourced by any means from the Kavango River. Should the exploration and fracking for oil and gas expand to Block 1720, 1721 and 1821, the impact on water availability and quality will be significant, especially if the wastewater is not well managed,” said the paper.
The research unit recommends close communication between the relevant Basin State Ministries (Mineral Resources, Environment) and the Permanent Commission on the Okavango River Basin, OKACOM, and other stakeholders must be facilitated.
This will facilitate sharing of the correct information on the desired intentions of the basin states and compromises sought for the sustainability of the ecosystems in the downstream of the Cubango-Okavango river Basin, states the position paper.
ORI as a key stakeholder with scientific information says it is positioned to provide scientific advice and guidance to decision-makers on the potential impacts of both exploration and development and operation activities.
It also recommends that while the impacts might be minimal at the exploration stage, environmental impacts during the development and extraction process are significant.
Findings also state that the SADC Protocol places a mandatory duty to make a notification of planned measures undertaken in any riparian state in cases where such measures hold the potential to cause ‘significant adverse effects.’
It further states that where the planned development is trivial and not expected to cause any significant harm, the development state is not under duty to notify other riparian states.
Given that the drilling in the Kavango Region in Nambia is merely for exploratory purpose and the possibility of harm is minor, it is therefore not surprising that the Namibian government did not inform Botswana.
However, should it be found that the oil can be profitably or economically exploited, the Namibian government would be under a duty to notify both Angola and Botswana.
The institution further states that to ensure sustainable development in the Okavango Delta the following in the context of exploration for and potential development of hydrocarbon deposits within the Cubango-Okavango River Basin, it must be considered that the Okavango Delta is a World Heritage Site listed in 2014 by UNESCO and one of the binding requirements of the listing is the non-permissible commercial mining of any mineral, gas or oil within the World Heritage Site.
It states that the Okavango Delta is also a RAMSAR site in which mining is not allowed.
Should the exploration for minerals, oil and gas be allowed, there is a high chance that a mineral, oil or gas may be found given that the Delta is sitting on karoo sediments and shale rocks which in other parts of the world have been found to be sources of oil and gas deposits. Should oil or gas be discovered, there will be a strong socio-economic pressure to mine oil or gas and create jobs for the masses.
Manufactured in Turkey, Pakmaya Instant Dry Yeast can be used in the production of various fermented products, as it is suited for both traditional and industrial baking processes. All kinds of breads, buns and fermented pastry products are typical examples of applications.
Pakmaya Africa Sales Manager Cem Perdar says Pakmaya has 4 plants in across the world, further indicating that all of the plants have the highest standards of quality certificates and approvals. Regarding raw material, molasses is the main ingredient for yeast. Concerning production activities, yeast manufacturing requires high know-how and capability. Pakmaya has all those capabilities and aspects more than 45 years.
According to Perdar, Pakmaya has been existent in African markets since 30 years. From South to North, Central to East and West, a consumer can find Pakmaya in nearly every part of Africa continent.
“With its high quality, rich product selection and good service, our brand has become the favorite yeast of many Africans. On the other hand, our distributors in African countries are working very hardly and loyally in order to promote our products in their markets. After some time, we are becoming like families with our exclusive distributors in Africa and this enables both parts to work harder and keeps our product sustainable in market,” he said in an interview this week.
The yeast manufacturing giant made its way to Botswana market. The company has been smoothly working with Kamoso Distribution, a local distribution company. Perdar told BusinessPostthat two entities have been working hard to earn is market locally.
“At the moment we have a good market share with them in Botswana market. I’m sure during 2021 long, we will be increasing our sales and market position. Soon we are going to start a marketing campaign in Botswana, so that means Batswana will see and recognize Pakmaya more and more. Pakmaya wants to be the best friend of bakers in bakeries and ladies at homes in Botswana.”
As per global COVID-19 regulations to curb the spread of the COVID-19, Botswana just like other country closed borders. Providentially, the restrictions did not affect the company destructively.
Perdar says “Kamoso Africa is a very important and strong partner in Botswana territory. With Kamoso’s hard work and strict measurements, we have done a very good job. So as Pakmaya, we have not suffered any distribution problem. Our partner is doing the needful at the reaching our products to end users.”
He further said “We are doing well in Botswana market and hoping to make much more. Our aim is to enter every single corner in Botswana territory. With our new marketing campaigns, we are planning to be the most preferred yeast in Botswana market.”