Pula Baskets weights have been retained at 45 percent South African Rand (ZAR) and 55 percent International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR) Ministry of Finance has announced.
Botswana’s current exchange rate arrangement is that the Pula (BWP) is pegged to a currency basket comprising the South African rand and the IMF’s SDR, in a forward-looking crawling band mechanism. On a regular basis the Pula Exchange Rate Policy Framework is reviewed with a view to maintain a stable and competitive real effective exchange rate of the country’s currency.
This is provided for by Section 21 of the Bank of Botswana Act which submits that the framework for determining the external value of the Pula shall be determined by state President on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, after consultation with Bank of Botswana, the country ‘s central bank.
In November last year the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Botswana reviewed the exchange rate mechanism, following their recommendation His Excellency the President then approved to maintain the Pula basket weights at 45 percent South African rand and 55 percent SDR coupled with a recommendation to implement an upward rate of crawl of 0.3 percent per annum as of 1st January, 2019.
The basket weights are in line with the country’s estimated trade pattern, while the adopted rate of crawl mirrors the inflation differential between Botswana and its trading partners. Botswana’s overall objective of its exchange rate policy is to achieve and maintain the competitiveness of domestic products and services in the international and domestic markets. Pula Basket weights were adjusted in 2017 from 50-50 ZAR –IMF SDR to the current stance.
This was the first time that the weight of the rand in the BWP basket was reduced below 50 percent. This announcement by the country’s treasury last week means the ZAR will now go into the third year trailing behind the IMF Special Drawing Right as far as weight on the pula basket is concerned. The Special Drawing Rights is an international reserve asset, created by the International Monetary Fund in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves.
So far SDR 204.2 billion which is equivalent to about US$291 billion have been allocated to members, including SDR 182.6 billion allocated in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis. The value of the SDR is based on a basket of five currencies the U.S. dollar, the Euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling. The SDR was created as a supplementary international reserve asset in the context of the Bretton Woods fixed exchange rate system.
The collapse of Bretton Woods’s system in 1973 and the shift of major currencies to floating exchange rate regimes lessened the reliance on the SDR as a global reserve asset. SDR allocations can play a role in providing liquidity and supplementing member countries’ official reserves, as was the case with the 2009 allocations totaling SDR 182.6 billion to IMF members amid the global financial crisis. The SDR serves as the unit of account of the IMF and some other international organizations. The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.
Rather, it is a potential claim on the freely usable currencies of IMF members. SDRs can be exchanged for these currencies. In general a currency basket is a selected group of currencies in which the weighted average is used as a measure of the value or the amount of an obligation. A currency basket functions as a benchmark for regional currency movements – its composition and weighting depend on its purpose.
Colloquially, a currency basket is often referred to as a currency cocktail. Commonly used in contracts as a way of avoiding or minimizing the risk of currency fluctuations. The European currency unit which was replaced by the euro and the Asian currency unit are examples of currency baskets. However, the most well-known currency basket is the U.S. dollar index: USDX. The U.S. dollar index started in 1973, and today is a basket of six currencies; the euro, Japanese yen, Canadian dollar, British pound, Swedish krona and Swiss franc.
The euro is by far the biggest weighting making up 58 percent of the basket. During the 21st century the index has reached a high of 121 during the tech boom and a low of 71 just prior to the Great Recession. For a developing country that Botswana is which is still very much on a course of traversing the world for global investors, maintaining a competitive real effective exchange rate of the Pula strikes as an imperative as other investment wooing tools.
Equity investors who have exposure to different countries will use a currency basket to smoothen risks. Because their core investment strategies are in the equity markets, they do not want to report any substantial losses in a market they are not experts in. The same can be said for bondholders. On the other hand, currency traders who have a broad-based view of a single currency will choose to own that currency against a variety of different currencies.
For example, traders that are bullish, the U.S. dollar could use the USDX to express this trade. Traders and investors can build their own currency baskets with different weightings depending on their strategy. The last part of 2015 and most of 2016 was dominated by divergent policy setting where Botswana’s trading partners like South Africa and US were increasing policy rates, whereas other markets like Britain, Europe, China and Japan were on an easing stance.
Observers note this divergent policy settings created some instability for Botswana in a real effective rate perspective as the pula weakened against the SDR basket, primarily the USD – and also inflation was on aggregate lower than the trading partners in the pula basket. These developments in policy rate and price movements thus related in disruptions to the real effective exchange rate, prompting the adjustment to the administration of the pula basket in 2017. A stable real effective exchange rate for an upcoming economy is observed by experts and economist as one that should benefit a country such as Botswana in the area of trade accounts and balance of payments.
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”