Issuing of long dated bonds by government sparks confidence and boosts the annuity book across investment & insurance market. This was remarked by Catherine leading financial services, insurance and investment group Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL), Lesetedi-Letegele Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in Gaborone last week.
An annuity is a financial product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual, primarily used as an income stream for retirees. Annuities are created and sold by financial institutions, which accept and invest funds from individuals and then, upon annuitization, issue a stream of payments at a later point in time. The period of time when an annuity is being funded and before payouts begins is referred to as the accumulation phase.
Once payments commence, the contract is in the annuitization phase. Annuities were designed to be a reliable means of securing a steady cash flow for an individual during their retirement years and to alleviate fears of longevity risk, or outliving one's assets. Annuities can also be created to turn a substantial lump sum into a steady cash flow, such as for winners of large cash settlements from a lawsuit or from winning the lottery.
Defined benefit pensions and Social Security are two examples of lifetime guaranteed annuities that pay retirees a steady cash flow until they pass. During presentation of BIHL set of financial results for the first 2018 half year in Gaborone last week Catherine Lesetedi noted that her company delivered satisfactory figures on the annuity front because of continued commitment to support the market by Government. “We are pleased that during the first six months we realised an improvement in annuity inflows, we were able to manage the annuity risk bolstered by government quarterly bond issuing,” she said.
Lesetedi explained that the annuity book was an extremely risky segment to manage noting that for BHIL , the breakthrough can also be attributed to well structured risk management framework handled by a team of actuaries that manage the risk and meets on a monthly basis. “It would be remise of me not to mention the fact that managing the annuity book requires long dated assets and we are quite pleased as BIHL that we have seen government come to the party and issue on a quarterly basis long dated bonds which sparks confidence in the market and boost annuity inflows,” she said.
Government bond which is sometime referred to as sovereign bond is a bond issued by a national government unusually through the treasury or central bank, generally with a promise to pay periodic interest payments and to repay the face value on the maturity date. The bonds are usually denominated in the country's own currency; the terms on which a government can sell bonds depend on how creditworthy the market considers it to be.
International credit rating agencies would provide ratings for the bonds, but market participants would then make up their own minds about a particular bond. In the case of Botswana, several years ago Government decided to assist in the growth of a stable and vibrant capital market in the country. Government through Bank of Botswana resolved to issue debt instrument in the form of bonds and treasury bills, issued on quarterly basis. BSEL has played a pivotal role in boosting the annuity market and the capital market at large by calling for government to issue more bonds.
BSE argued that the limited availability of listed government bonds negatively impact the demand of debt instruments while also compromising the liquidity of the debt market. In mid 2017 Thapelo Tsheole Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BSE now a demutualized limited company, remarked that lack of adequate government bonds as well as the wide gaps between their maturity dates was posing danger of negatively hitting the pricing of corporate bonds.
“We need to have more government bonds issued to maintain a robust risk free curve and the viability of the existing BSE bond indices. These wide gaps in the yield curve negatively impact the pricing of assets such as corporate bonds that ordinarily reference risk free assets and this brings distortions in pricing and compromises the liquidity and the appetite for debt instruments,” said the BSE Chief quoted in July 2017.
Last week Catherine Lesetedi noted that government decision to participate more and coming up with a reviewed framework that speaks to a specified and defined interval of bond issuing was commendable. “We are quite pleased that at the last auction Government came to the market with a new bond BW 0015 which is a 25 year tenure bond, and this is very helpful for anyone who is in the market for annuities to manage their liabilities,” she said.
According to the BIHL boss government participation in the bond indices go a long way into boosting risk mitigation and containing liabilities as far the annuity book is concerned. “We would like to really recognize government and appreciate these efforts in supporting the annuity market, we engage with the Ministry of Finance on an ongoing basis to ensure that they appreciate the challenges of matching the annuity book,” she said.
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”