Botswana’s continued dependence on mineral revenue has been underscored as a ticking bomb that will lead the country into an economic crash if serious efforts to diversify revenue streams are not put to place. This emerged during several engagement post 2019/20 Budget Speech delivered by the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo on Monday.
For the coming 2019/financial year commencing in April this year, total revenue and grants are estimated at P60.20 billion. Mineral revenue remains the highest contributor at P21.09 billion or 35.62 percent of total revenue and grants, while customs and excise revenue is estimated at P14.02 billion. Non-mineral income tax is estimated at P11.55 billion, while VAT is expected at P9.12 billion. Minister Matambo acknowledged that however, there are downside risks to these revenue estimates, arising mainly from the continued high volatility of the mineral and customs and excise revenues.
Total expenditure and net lending for the financial year 2019/2020, on the other hand, is estimated at P67.54 billion, resulting in a budget deficit of P7.34 billion or minus 3.5 percent of GDP. When sharing his views at the First National Bank Botswana Budget review session on Tuesday Moathodi Sebabole, Chief Economists at FNB noted that Botswana’s stable fiscal stance and prudent public finance administration record was commendable saying that however over reliance of one revenue stream as a major income earner was worrisome.
Sebabole noted that Botswana’s heavy dependence on a single commodity as a key economic driver coupled with unexplored and narrow economic base was a major credit constraint.â€¨â€¨This has also been reiterated by international finance and economic commentator and rating agency, Moody’s in their annual report released in October last year.
Botswana is currently heavily reliant on the mining sector as the main foreign income earner and key fiscal revenue window predominantly the diamond industry.â€¨â€¨The country’s flagship diamond company, Debswana, a 50-50 venture between global diamond giants De Beers is the largest private sector employer, only the Government of Botswana employs more people than Debswana.
The mining sector accounts for almost a quarter of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).â€¨â€¨This according to Moody’s and many other global finance and economic observers, signals a ticking time bomb and continues to pose a threat to the country future as diamonds and minerals are finite and also vulnerable to global economic uncertainties in terms of fluctuating commodity prices
Taking a look at the past three financial years, total revenues and grants for 2017/2018 financial year were at P56.41 billion, while total expenditure and net lending amounted to P58.39 billion, resulting in the overall deficit of P1.98 billion, or 1.1 percent of GDP. Matambo explained on Monday that this negative budget outturn was due to the lower tax collections during the year.
“Efforts will therefore, be intensified to ensure efficiency in the collection of tax revenues by the Botswana Unified Revenue Service through the continuous review of tax laws and leveraging on the use of ICT to enhance compliance,” he said. During the 2018/19 financial year coming to end in April this year the revised budget forecast for the 2018/2019 depicts a deficit P6.96 billion, or 3.5 percent of GDP, compared to the original budget deficit of P3.59 billion. Matambo explained that total revenue and grants have been revised downwards by 12.6 percent to P58.23 billion, due to forecast underperformance of the mineral and non-mineral income tax revenue items.
Mineral revenue has been revised downwards by 17.5 percent in light of the decision by Debswana to commence the implementation of Cut 9 project at Jwaneng and Cut 3 project at Orapa during this financial year, financed through forfeited dividends. Total expenditure and net lending for 2018/2019 shows a decrease of P2.68 billion from the original budget of P67.87 billion to P65.19 billion, due to the continued underperformance of the development budget.
The development budget for 2018/2019 is revised from the original figure of P19.31 billion to P16.62 billion, to reflect the implementation capacity of both the public and private sectors to execute projects. Going forward Minister Matambo noted the 2019/20 budget proposals are informed by the need to consolidate the country’s gains in various areas of development and address the challenges to achieve sustained economic growth to support employment creation and poverty alleviation.
“Our focus will be placed on high impact infrastructure development; human capital development, especially technical and vocational education; and national ICT backbone. In addition, Government will continue to implement social welfare programmes, as part of its efforts to address poverty among the most vulnerable groups of the society” he said. Minister Matambo further revealed that Government has taken a decision to set up a Project Management Office during the 2019/2020 financial year to ensure effective implementation of projects.â€¨
A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.
With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.
After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.
Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”
Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.
However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.
The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.
In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.
“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.
This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.
On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.
However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.
Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.
Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.
According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.
The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores. Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.
South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.
However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.
When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.
“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.
The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.
This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.
What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.
“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.
Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.
CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.
Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.
“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.
CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.
Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.
“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.
According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of: i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.