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Masisi praises Southern Africa’s advanced economy ambitions

Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) hosted 38th Southern African Mathematical Sciences Association (SAMSA) conference which was held in Botswana for the 5th time, under the theme “Mathematical Sciences- catalyst for Driving a knowledge Based Economy.”

When delivering his remarks, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said he was delighted that Southern Africa, like the rest of the world, is moving with speed in quest to transform respective economies from resources based, to economies driven with knowledge.  In order to achieve this, it was imperative to establish and maintain a culture of continuous research and innovation, Masisi contended. Masisi said this year theme resonates well with government mission of social and economic transformation.

‘It is commonly known that over the centuries, progress in Mathematics was usually not directed appreciated by the public, because its results were believed to be abstract, remote from everyday experience” he said. “Mathematics is more than just peculiar theorems and occasional popular achievements and the fact of the matter its precision and rigour, Mathematics is an indispensable tool for all the sciences, engineering and technology.”   

According to Masisi the last part of the Twentieth century has seen spectacular advances in Mathematics, especially in the theory of dynamical systems and stochastic analysis and with the influence of advances in computing technology and Mathematics will continue to play an ever increasing role in the development of the physical and life sciences, as well as in technology.

Masisi said the overarching rationale of the SAMSA conference is to Develop skills in the areas of Mathematics including Financial Mathematics, Statistics, Actuarial Sciences, and others that are vital to emerging stock markets, banks and insurance companies in the SADC region and also address problems in Biomathematics such as wildlife control, disease control, for both Humans and Animals thus to make recommendations that will assist in arriving at informed policies.

“While the value of mathematics in various sectors of national economies has being demonstrated, decision makers and researchers have yet to take full advantage of its potentials” he said. 
The power of mathematics and computing science in providing modeling and analytical tools is all too often overlooked, yet these provide the critical platforms for innovation.  

Furthermore, Dr Masisi said he was confident that a conference of this nature will assist in promoting the use of mathematics and leveraging on the vast opportunities it offers, the government has big ambitions of nurturing a knowledge based economy and this gathering could not have come at a better time as it affords Botswana the opportunity to reflect more on the things that government need to invest in as they strive to achieve the goal of a knowledge driven society.  

In conclusion, “It would be remiss of me not to urge Mathematicians and computer scientists in the region to strived to be internationally competitive, so as to raise the bar of our contribution of solutions to academic, scientific, commercial and societal values”, said Masisi.

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

21st September 2020

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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