President Mokgweetsi Masisi and other relevant stakeholders are expected to seriously consider findings of a consultancy report carried out by government think-tank Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) on the alcohol levy.
A 171 paged report titled: A study to evaluate the National Interventions against Alcohol Abuse in Botswana, has punched holes on the imposed government alcohol interventions with specific interest on Alcohol Levy. The study which was carried out last year as per the recommendations of Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW) has labelled the levy as redundant and costly for the economy.
Originally introduced in 2008, the alcohol levy was raised every year until 2015 at point which it was sitting at 55 percent. The levy has since been revised to between 50 and 55 percent depending on the alcoholic volume of the liquor. This year it was reported that the levy made P2.6 billion. Generally, it is said, the drinking behavior has not changed much since the introduction of the alcohol levy and its associated interventions such as restrictions in the hours of sale.
However, it is also clear that a combination of the intervention has potential and can make significant impact overtime. “An insignificant 2.5 percent attributed their change in drinking pattern to the imposition of the alcohol levy as a confirmation that the alcohol levy had very little impact on reduction of alcohol abuse in Botswana.”
The alcohol levy did not affect the decision of members to drink or reduce the numbers of households with at least one-member drinking. In terms of consumption expenditure, alcohol and tobacco remained among the top four commodities after food, transport and housing costs. It has been therefore concluded that the alcohol levy has resulted in a slight decrease in expenditure on alcohol and tobacco (0.4 percentage points) at national level which may have a positive effect on household well-being.
“However, in rural areas the effect has been negative since expenditure has been shifted from food to compensate for the increase in alcohol prices due to the levy, and this has negatively impacted on the livelihoods of members of such households especially children and the elderly.”
BIDPA as per the research says the levy which was intended to curb excessive alcohol consumption has in fact increased consumption. People, as per the perception that alcohol is expensive have resorted to other means of getting themselves intoxicated.
“People are now drinking more, using money meant for basic households needs such as food, clothing, school uniform etc. to buy alcohol, drinking cheaper home brews, and increasingly using other substances such as glue sniffing and marijuana to sustain addiction,” the report read in part.
As consumers switch to alcoholic beverages with high alcohol content and spirits, the local brand, St Louis has suffered as it has low alcohol content. In addition, the report states, the alcohol producer and distributors have observed that consumers have switched to buying in bulk as this is relatively cheap. “For instance, consumers have switched from buying 330 ml to 440 ml cans and more importantly to 750 ml bottled beer.”
BIDPA says before the implementation of this, there was need to be based on evidence. “The industry players argue that when the alcohol levy and other measures introduced to curb excessive alcohol consumption were introduced there was no research to back the interventions or benchmarking undertaken to ensure their effectiveness.” Further the report argues that “alcohol Levy Fund should be used for its original purposes such as building of rehabilitation centers to help those already addicted.”
The effect of the levy on household cannot be underestimated. “The reality on the ground is that since the introduction of the different measures to curb alcohol abuse many people who drink alcohol in excess have resorted to diversion of household income to alcohol at the expense of other pressing needs such as food switching to and drinking low cost alcohol resorting to the use of drugs such as marijuana mixing alcohol with drugs to get the maximum effect.”
The alcohol levy has made poor people poorer, according to the report. All their income is spent on buying alcohol. “All the money received is blown in one day … to buy nothing but this devil,” one respondent was quoted saying. The report which is expected to guide policy makers on other interventions reveal that the levy did not lead to a reduction in alcohol consumption. “Instead, people who drink continued to drink the same way they did before the imposition of the levy, some drink even more.”
The alcohol levy, reduction in trading hours and other interventions meant to reduce excessive alcohol consumption have not been effective. Some of the interventions such as reduction in trading hours have been rendered ineffective because people have resorted to buying beer in bulk, mainly at bottle stores where it is relatively cheap, to later drink at bars outside the stipulated trading hours or at their homes.
“A simulation exercise to analyses the impact of alcohol levy introduced in 2008 based on 50 percent temporary increase in alcohol prices and a 50 percent permanent increase in alcohol prices indicate that the levy had a slightly small impact on the demand for alcohol. In light of the results we can conclude that more investigations are needed to explore the real impacts of the alcohol levy,” report says.
The reasons as to why people drink varied from as high as 50 percent for those who drink alcohol in order to socialize. Other reasons that push people into drinking include, among others, enjoy the taste (31 percent) to get drunk (22 percent). Other reasons for alcohol consumption rated below 20 percent were; the urge to be mentally alert, relieve pressure and tension, as well as to forget about social problems and painful memories.
EFFECTS OF THE LEVY ON EMPLOYMENT
According to the research KBL indicated that after the introduction of the levy in 2008 and subsequent increase in 2010, job losses were minimal as they were able to absorb the costs through the sales of sorghum beer (Chibuku). However, the introduction of the Traditional Beer Regulations in 2012 resulted in loss in employment starting from 2013.
The traditional beer regulations made it mandatory for chibuku to be sold in licensed premises. Before the regulations were introduced the majority (over 80 percent according to KBL) were selling chibuku from their homes without licenses. After the introduction of these regulations the majority of the retailers, most of whom are women closed down their businesses because they could not comply with the law.
As a result of their low income status they could not find suitable places to sell their chibuku and hence could not get licenses to do so. This drastically reduced (80 percent) the amount of chibuku sales by KBL and hence revenue. KBL had to close some of its distributions depots (Selibe Phikwe and two breweries one in Palapye and another one in Lobatse). This led to direct job losses, which KBL estimates at between 150-200 people.
The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.
In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.
“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.
“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”
Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.
“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.
“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.
“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”
Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.
“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.
While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.
“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.
PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.
Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.
Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS
“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”
Broadening the tax base and digital economy
In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.
South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.
ESG and carbon tax
Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.
In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.
Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.
With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”
The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.
Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.
Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.
Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.
According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.
The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.
She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.
The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.
Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.
In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.
According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.