No country in Africa is rated before Botswana when it comes to encouraging investment in exploration and its jurisdiction is seen to provide attractive mining policies, according to Fraser Institute’s 2018 annual survey of mining and exploration companies.
The study was done by carrying out survey on approximately 2,600 individuals in exploration, development, and other mining-related companies around the world. The survey has the Investment Attractiveness Index which measure the attractiveness of a jurisdiction based on policy factors such as onerous regulations, taxation levels, the quality of infrastructure. The other main index is the Policy Perception Index which looks at the attractiveness of mining policies in a jurisdiction, and can serve as a report card to governments on how attractive their policies are from the point of view of an exploration manager.
Through the survey Fraser Institute assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulatory uncertainty affect exploration investment. Carried out across the world’s leading mining jurisdiction zooming into prospecting, exploring and mineral extracting companies the study also takes into account issues of safety, occupational health and environment as far as mining operations are concerned.
Since dominating for the last couple of years Botswana is again the highest ranked jurisdiction in Africa on policy, ranking 12th (of 83) in 2018, after ranking 21st (of 91) in 2017. According to the survey Botswana’s high scores this year and an improvement in past few years’ means mining and exploration investors can come home for mining projects since the is less or no concern over uncertainty concerning protected areas like: (-24 points), trade barriers (-20 points), and political stability (-18 points).
“The tax regime in Botswana continues to be exemplary when compared to other African jurisdictions and encourages investment in exploration,” says an exploration company vice-president interviewed for the survey according to the latest report by the Fraser Institute. The survey which was circulated electronically to approximately 2,600 individuals between 21 August and 9 November 2018 helps investors to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors such as taxation and regulatory uncertainty affect exploration investment. The “Best Practices Mineral Potential” index ranks the jurisdictions based on which region’s geology “encourages exploration investment” or is “not a deterrent to investment” and Botswana is still among the top performers in this index.
New ventures in Botswana
Recently there has been fresh news of opening of the mining that was formerly called Boseto by Khoemacau with a P5.6 billion investment. These news together with Botswana’s healthy diamond relationship with De Beer or/and Anglo America, may have contributed to Botswana’s high rankings in the mining survey. De Beers and Botswana talks are expected to reach a climax in June this year and both parties have promised an amicable deal to the media.
A company with foreign investors like Botswana Diamonds continues to hold exploration rights in Botswana soils and promises to keep them without any complain. Canadian diamond giant Lucara boasts of its Botswana’s Karowe diamonds which were recently making headlines synonymous with production of huge rough diamonds-this must provide a positive outlook for the Fraser Institution survey.
Saskatchewan displaced Ireland from the top spot this year, and had the highest PPI score of 100. Saskatchewan was followed by Nevada in second, which moved up from 5th in the previous year. Along with Saskatchewan and Nevada the top 10 ranked jurisdictions are Finland, Ireland, Western Australia, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Utah, New Brunswick, and Quebec.
The 10 least attractive jurisdictions for investment based on the PPI rankings are starting with the worst Venezuela, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Neuquén, Chubut, Philippines, Guatemala, La Rioja, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, and China. Venezuela, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chubut, Philippines, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, and China were all in the bottom 10 jurisdictions last year.
Botswana which is home to the richest diamond mine by value is noted as one the leading mining countries in the world with investment friendly policies and factors. The country’s mining policies has birthed one the most celebrated public –private partnerships in the world between Botswana Government and global diamond giant De Beers Group .
Botswana accounts for more than 70 % of the De Beers diamond rough diamond produce. The 53 year old Southern African republic is the leading diamond-producing country in terms of value, and the second largest in terms of volume. This is the home base of De Beers, and the source of most of its production today. In 2013, Botswana produced 23.2 million carats with a stated value of $3.63 billion.The country is also home to one of the most abundant coal deposits in the world sitting at over 200 billion tones with other minerals explored being copper , zinc , silver and nickel.
But there are lowlights
The country has been unfortunate in seeing the abrupt closure of the BCL mine which was seen to be done in political expediency by close observers. The mine which is said to be one of the biggest copper mines is failing to garner investors since its closure and subsequent liquidation of 2016. Some believe the mine might end as a great white elephant as its care and maintenance continues to botch.
Another failed copper project which is unable to get a white knight investor is the Mowana mine which was closed last year December due to inability to live up to operation costs. Lerala mine is one of the worst in terms of attracting investors as it has even gone down in value-more than 50 percent its initial value. It was nearly auctioned for P80 million but its investors failed to raise capital according to the mine liquidator. Lerala mine still hangs on the hopes of the people of Lerala village as it is still looking for a knight investor.
The nightmare in the fall of the promising Pula Steel was recently reignited as its former owner Deepak Verma blames government for leading the mine into collapse. The mine was closed and liquidated after operational failure. For the 2018 report released this week, survey responses have been tallied to rank provinces, states, and countries according to the extent that public policy factors encourage or discourage mining investment.
The Fraser Institute received a total of 291 responses for the survey, providing sufficient data to evaluate 83 jurisdictions. By way of comparison, 91 jurisdictions were evaluated in 2017, 104 in 2016, 109 in 2015, and 122 in 2014.The number of jurisdictions that can be included in the study tends to wax and wane as the mining sector grows or shrinks due to commodity prices and sectoral factors. This year’s survey includes an analysis of permit times, which was previously evaluated in a separate publication.
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.
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.
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”