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Regulatory constraints impede Africa tax revenue mobilisation ATAF

The General Assembly of the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) held in Gaborone this week has underscored that regulatory constraints and limited internal capacity of African tax collection bodies as key factors that continue to hinder effective and efficient domestic resources and revenue mobilisation through tax by relevant authorities.

The high-profile summit by tax administration officials of African states which convened for the fifth time since inception in 2008 provides an avenue for member countries to share best practices on tax matters and discuss strategies for improving on tax administration in Africa.

When officially opening the forum held under the theme, “Moving Africa beyond Aid through Tax Revenue Mobilisation,” Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said Africa’s funding gap for its infrastructural development was estimated into hundreds of billions of United States dollars by International finance institutions such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

He observed that historically, Africa has depended on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to finance its development.  “However, for many countries, including Botswana, this source of development financing has declined over the years,” shared Matambo who explained that the decline in ODA has spurred many of the developing countries including in Africa to turn to domestic resources for financing their development needs.

Matambo shared that while governments take the lead in making policy decisions for mobilising domestic tax revenue to finance infrastructural development the responsibility of actually pulling the act together was bestowed upon revenue authorities.  “As governments, we are cognisant of some of the challenges that our revenue authorities face in mobilising domestic revenue for development, which range from regulatory constraints to limited internal capacity” he said.

Matambo added that it would bear little fruits for African countries to address some of these challenges within the confines of their individual boarders as they spread to inter boarder’s trade dealing and customs collection operations. “It can be overwhelming, hence, the need for a fora such as the African Tax Administration Forum to brainstorm on these issues,” he added.

At the forum which ran for more than the days revenue authorities with the host Botswana Revenue Service (BURS) leading discussions, shared experiences in the areas of good governance in the running of their organisations, articulation of tax policy reforms, building of internal systems and processes to improve efficiency and effective revenue collection, and in designing training programmes to improve capacity within the revenue authorities.

 Late last year the African Tax Administration Forum launched “Toolkit for Transfer Pricing Risk Assessment in the African Mining Industry,” an instrument that seeks to guide African Countries on dealing with issues of illicit financial flows, the achievement was underscored at this year’s meet as a significant milestone considering the challenge faced by the African countries in dealing with multinational organisations.

Just a fortnight ago the Africa Mining Summit held in Gaborone at the very same venue revealed the African was losing over $100 billion to illicit capital and illegal financial flows annually. It was highlighted that building tax administration capacity was needed to help spur development in Africa. Tax revenues account for over a third of GDP in developed economies while contributing far less in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where they correspond to less than a fifth of GDP.

Deliberations at the forum underscored that more tax revenue would not only help the African countries to function and pay for goods and services but would open the way for other market and state reforms that would promote economic, social and environmental development. “Raising tax burdens might seem like an odd proposition to policymakers, but when taxes account for 10 to 15% of GDP, a well-designed increase in tax is exactly what many developing countries need: just as an excessively heavy tax burden might crush activity, an excessively low one can starve an economy of the oxygen it needs to advance,” said Logan Wort, Executive Secretary of African Tax Administration Forum.

Logan Wort noted that institutional arrangements were another issue which can have an impact on the effectiveness of tax administration. He shared that revenue bodies in most African countries follow a relatively unified, semiautonomous model, meaning that they have considerable freedom to interpret tax laws, allocate resources, design internal structures and implement appropriate human resource management strategies.  “At the same time, they are responsible for tax, customs and non-tax revenue operations, this can cause some resources stretch and result in gross inefficiencies” he said proposing for further dialogue on tax administration reform.

BOTSWANA ’S PROPOSED TAX ADMINISTRATION REFORM

Like many African countries, the taxation structure in Botswana was basic at the time of its independence in 1966 comprising mainly of the Income Tax department. However, five decades later, the country’s fiscal landscape has transformed, guided by orderly legislative reforms and institutional transformation.  Over the past five decades, a number of tax laws were put in place aimed at improving the country’s tax regime.

In addition to the review of the old Income Tax and Customs Act, the Government adopted the Value Added Tax Act of 2002, and Botswana Revenue Service Act of 2003. The latter culminated in the establishment of the Botswana Revenue Service (BURS). As a result of these measures, Botswana is currently financing over 60 percent of its budget from the domestic tax revenue, while the balance comes from the customs duties and other revenues. The contribution of ODA to the budget is less than one percent.

The tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is around 20 percent, which, though lower than in OECD countries, Minister Matambo underscored as very competitive among the Sub-Saharan countries. He explained that despite the relatively high tax to GDP ratio, the Government of Botswana remains concerned about the country’s narrow domestic revenue base, and volatility of the two main sources of mineral revenue and customs receipts.

“In this regard, the Government of Botswana is working on further reforms to improve the tax landscape. These include the development of a new Tax Administration Bill to consolidate the administration of various domestic taxes and improve on their implementation,” Matambo said.  “Deliberating on the new proposed bill Matambo said this overarching tax administration law will result in the consequential amendments to other revenue laws such as the Income Tax and the Value Added Tax Acts to synchronise and harmonise them.

Government has made a policy decision on the funding model for BURS, whereby unlike with other state-owned enterprises, which are funded through a grant subvention from Government, BURS has been allowed to retain part of its tax collection in order to fund its operational and development requirements. However, for good governance, the budget of BURS is still subject to the normal approval by the BURS Board and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

Matambo observed that the change in the funding model has enabled BURS to address challenges relating to capacity and skills development, as well as funding its infrastructural projects, such as the ICT systems and construction of border posts. “Through the technical assistance from the Forum, my Ministry has developed the Transfer Pricing legislation, which is due to be laid before Parliament next month. The transfer pricing legislation buttresses the message that everyone should pay taxes when they become due, without fail or manipulation,” he said.

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Botswana financial sector safe despite high unsecured household loans – IMF

4th December 2023

Botswana’s financial sector has been deemed safe and resilient by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite the presence of high levels of unsecured household loans. The IMF’s 2023 report on the country’s financial sector highlights the robustness of Botswana’s banking system and its ability to withstand various shocks.

According to the report, credit risk is the largest risk in Botswana’s banking system, with a significant portion of total assets comprising loans concentrated in the household sector. Specifically, 70 percent of bank loans to households in Botswana are personal loans, primarily in the form of unsecured consumer credit. However, the IMF notes that a large share of lenders collect repayments through direct salary deduction, resulting in a generally low level of non-performing household loans.

The IMF’s assessment confirms that most banking entities in Botswana have strong capital buffers, which would enable them to survive even in the event of an increase in non-performing loans in the household sector. While a 20 percent transition of performing loans into non-performing loans would result in some banks experiencing a significant capital shortfall, the majority of banks possess robust total capital buffers and would remain unaffected by severe shocks to household loans.

Furthermore, the IMF team conducted Bank Solvency Stress Tests, which demonstrated that Botswana’s banking system remains profitable and resilient to severe macro-financial shocks. The stress tests revealed that the aggregate capital depletion in an adverse scenario is relatively small, amounting to less than 0.02 percent of GDP. Although credit risk increases significantly under the adverse scenario, the impact on the capital ratio from rising non-performing loans is outweighed by the increase in net interest income.

The IMF’s assessment also indicates that Botswana’s financial sector weathered the Covid-19 pandemic well. The authorities have made notable progress in strengthening financial supervisory and regulatory frameworks since 2007. The financial sector is deemed stable, sound, and resilient, with risks primarily related to banks’ high concentration of short-term deposits from retirement funds and insurance companies, volatility in diamond prices, geopolitical developments, and tightening global financial conditions. However, the financial system remains resilient to a wide range of shocks associated with these risks, although some vulnerabilities exist.

The Financial Stability Council (FSC), a statutory body led by the Governor of the Bank of Botswana, also recently affirmed the resilience and safety of the domestic financial system. The FSC’s assessment found that the financial sector in Botswana is robust, safe, and unconstrained in providing a range of financial services to support the economy. This resilience is attributed to strong capital and liquidity buffers, profitability, continuous innovation and adaptability, and a robust regulatory environment. The FSC believes that the macroeconomic environment, characterized by positive economic growth, well-managed government fiscal position, and modest inflation, further supports financial stability. Stress tests conducted on banks validate their strong solvency and resilience.

IMF concludes that Botswana’s financial sector remains safe and resilient, despite the presence of high levels of unsecured household loans. The IMF’s assessment highlights the strong capital buffers of banking entities, their ability to withstand shocks, and the overall stability of the financial system. The country’s financial sector has also demonstrated its resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Financial Stability Council further affirms the safety and effectiveness of the financial system in providing financial services to support the economy.

 

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Botala Energy debuts on the BSE

4th December 2023

Botala Energy, an Australian energy company, recently made its debut on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), joining a growing number of energy development companies trading on the exchange. The company, established in 2018, is focused on exploring and developing natural gas and renewable energy opportunities in Botswana, particularly in the Serowe Gas Project and Solar Opportunities.

The listing of Botala Energy on the BSE was welcomed by Mr Tsamatse Mamola, the Head of Listings & Tradings at the exchange. He recognized the company as a pioneering force in the field of gas exploration and development. Mamola also highlighted the company’s commitment to clean energy production, which aligns with the global movement towards sustainable practices. By harnessing the potential of coal bed methane in the Serowe Project and integrating it with solar power generation, Botala Energy is not only innovating in the energy sector but also contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.

Mamola emphasized the significance of Botala Energy’s decision to list all of its issued shares on the BSE. This move demonstrates the company’s confidence in the exchange as a strategic partner in its corporate journey. The listing provides Botala Energy with access to diverse sources of capital, which will be instrumental in advancing its exploration and development projects, fostering technological innovation, and achieving its clean energy production goals. The BSE, as a facilitator of capital raising, plays a crucial role in supporting ambitious initiatives and fostering growth.

The listing of Botala Energy also brings benefits to the broader Botswana economy. It increases investor interest, contributing to the liquidity and vibrancy of the market. Botswana, traditionally reliant on diamonds, recognizes the importance of diversifying its economic base. The inclusion of a dynamic and forward-looking company like Botala Energy on the exchange reflects the evolving economic landscape of the nation.

In the pursuit of economic diversification, the Botswana Stock Exchange serves as a bridge connecting visionary companies with investors who share their commitment to progress. By providing a marketplace for a diverse range of industries, from traditional sectors to emerging technologies, the exchange becomes a catalyst for economic resilience and sustainability.

Peter Grant, the Non-Executive Director of Botala Energy, shared some insights into the company’s operations. Since commencing exploration in Botswana, Botala has made significant progress, drilling exploration wells and pilot production wells. The company expects to become a modest producer of commercial gas within 12 months and increase production rapidly. Botala Energy has independently certified gas reserves and prospective resources within its project area, which have the potential to supply significant amounts of gas for power generation.

Grant also mentioned Botala Energy’s focus on delivering Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to off-grid communities, providing them with reliable and affordable electricity and gas. The company is exploring the commercial option of establishing an Energy Hub and Industrial Park near Palapye, where it aims to produce energy for Botswana and export it to neighboring South Africa. Additionally, Botala Energy plans to establish a solar/gas hybrid plant in Serowe to feed into the local grid, in collaboration with the Ngwato Development Trust.

Market analysts say the listing of Botala Energy on the Botswana Stock Exchange marks an important milestone for the company and the energy sector in Botswana. It provides the company with access to capital, fosters economic growth and diversification, and contributes to the global movement towards sustainable energy practices. Botala Energy’s innovative approach to gas exploration and development, combined with its commitment to clean energy production, positions it as a key player in shaping a greener and more sustainable future for Botswana.

 

 

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Beverages dominate Botswana’s food imports

4th December 2023

Beverages dominate Botswana’s food imports for August 2023, according to the latest figures released by Statistics Botswana. The country imported beverages, spirits, and vinegar worth approximately P332 million during this month. This is a significant increase from the previous month, where the food import bill slightly rose from P1,063,990,477.2 in July 2023 to P1,233,702,300.4 in August 2023.

The total imports for Botswana in August 2023 were valued at P6,995,115,623.2, compared to P6,897,364,155.2 recorded in July 2023. Food imports accounted for 15.9 percent of this amount, contributing P1,233,702,300.4. Among the food items imported, beverages, spirits, and vinegar accounted for the majority at 26.9 percent. Cereals and sugars followed with 13.4 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

Within the category of beverages, spirits, and vinegar, the most imported commodities were mineral waters and aerated waters containing sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored, contributing 47.0 percent. Beer made from malt accounted for 16.7 percent, while fermented beverages and non-alcoholic beverages accounted for 15.9 percent. The import bill for beverages, spirits, and vinegar shows that the country imported mineral waters and aerated waters containing added sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored worth approximately P156 million. Beer made from malt accounted for around P55 million, while fermented beverages and non-alcoholic beverages were valued at around P79.1 million. Wine and liqueurs and cordials were also imported, with values of P12.6 million and P6.4 million, respectively.

In terms of cereals, dried maize excluding seed and other wheat and muslin accounted for 42.3 percent and 27.4 percent, respectively. Rice imports contributed 21.2 percent. The country spent approximately P165 million on cereal imports, with dried maize accounting for around P70 million, wheat around P45 million, and rice around P44.7 million.

Other food imports included preparations of cereals, flour, starch, or milk; pastry cooks’ products, which amounted to around P89 million. Preparations of vegetables, fruit, nuts, or other parts of plants accounted for around P88 million, while sugars and sugar confectionery were valued at around P108 million. Miscellaneous edible preparations, animal or vegetable fats and oils, dairy produce, prepared animal fodder, coffee, tea, and spices, fruits and nuts, meat, vegetables and certain roots and tubers, and products of the milling industry such as malt, starches, and wheat gluten were also imported, with values ranging from P13 million to P74.6 million.

In conclusion, beverages, particularly mineral waters and aerated waters containing sugar or other sweetening matter or flavored, dominate Botswana’s food imports for August 2023. The country also imports a significant amount of cereals, sugars, and other food products. These figures highlight the country’s reliance on imported food items and the need for strategies to promote domestic production and reduce dependence on imports.

 

 

 

 

 

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