Barclays Bank of Botswana is committed to introducing new solutions and platforms to add value to its consumers. With the launch of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), foreign travelers will be able to pay for goods and services at Merchant outlets in Botswana with their Visa or MasterCard in their home currency.
Whilst making payments using the Barclays Point of Sale machines, the device will be able to detect the currency of the Card and provide an option for the customer to either pay in Botswana Pula or in the Cardholder’s home currency. The advantage here is that the customer will know in real time the amount that would be charged in the home currency of the Card including the currency conversion charge of 3 percent. The Bank has partnered with FEXCO which would be providing the Foreign Currency rates and conversion.
Barclays Bank of Botswana Retail Director, Brighton Banda, said: “As a financial services provider, we always seek ways in which our payment solutions bring the convenience that customers need and expect. Spending in a currency best understood by a customer is meant to ease transactions for international customers so as to make their shopping experience more convenient.”
This functionality has been in use in other markets particularly those with high volume tourism and commerce, such as London and Dubai. It’s one of the many firsts by Barclays in Botswana to avail a similar International Shopping experience. For international travelers visiting Botswana, budget management is easier as DCC makes them aware of the amount being spent in their local currency. They will be able to relate to the exact amount spent in their home currency with what would appear in their Bank statement.
Furthermore, the International Cardholder has full transparency in terms of real time FX rates inclusive of conversion fees, and can make an informed decision whether or not to use the Dynamic Currency Conversion option. For the merchants, for every transaction converted to DCC they would be incentivized with a rebate at rates pre-agreed with the bank. Also for the Bank, DCC helps combat Currency fluctuations since settlement is made in USD for all International transactions by Visa and Mastercard. This is a Win-Win solution for all parties in the transaction.
“The many benefits of this solution are all part of our growing efforts to enhance customer experience, and how foreign travelers experience Botswana. We are also pleased to be able to, in this way, further support local businesses, primarily in the retail and hospitality sector as the key servicer providers of foreign travelers. We remain committed to introducing innovative and relevant solutions that allow our customers, communities, businesses and economy to prosper, and this is one such effort,” said Banda.
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”