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Gov’t has to pronounce official position of EVMs

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will officially kick start preparing for next year’s crucial general election with registration process bringing the 3rd of September until the 11th of November 2018. With only a few months left before 2019 general elections, it is necessary for government to make an official pronouncement on the use of the controversial Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

This is in the interest of the nation in more ways than one. First, it is necessary for IEC itself to know well in time the method of voting they will use in order to adequately prepare for the elections. Secondly, the citizens, whom these elections are meant for, should have trust in the entire process, and making last minute decisions would not help in terms of delivering free and credible elections.  

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration has on more than two occasions hinted at the possibility of reversing the introduction of EVM but they are yet to make an official pronouncement on their position. The debacle and the suspicions involving the EVM seem to be lurking around without meaningful progress or consensus on the matter. It is important to note that elections are a very sensitive process and should be treated with care and caution – something we have managed to do as a country since 1965.

We must learn from the past failures and avoid these hiccups going forward. In 1999, Festus Mogae had to invoke the state of emergence constitutional provision because of some casual approach by government in the election process. What would be necessary for Masisi government do to, in order to reverse the controversial amendment to the Electoral Act will be parliament intervention through another amendment. Of course Masisi has the necessary majority to make this decision and he should do it in the interest of the nation.

Experience from other jurisdiction that held elections recently teaches us that there are better ways to deliver election results quicker, even without using an EVM. IEC should take a leaf from their methods, one of them, is doing the counting at polling stations and sending results to the central station for tallying. It has proved to be efficient and effective. Instead of pursuing the EVMs, it should have been necessary for government to consider discarding their current arrangement were the counting takes place at a central point. This has been the major cause of delays in releasing election results.

It seems the EVM case is still far from being heard and it will drag a little longer before the courts. Botswana Congress Party (BCP), through its lawyers seeks to argue that the Electoral Act as amended to introduce EVMs for voting is unconstitutional. It is also urging the Court to declare that EVMs violate the fundamental democratic principles of transparency and openness which are a pre- requisite for elections.

The BCP further argues that EVMs can be tampered with and therefore unsafe to be used for choosing a government. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has on the 23rd March 2017 delivered a notice to abide by the decision of the Court indicating that the IEC shall not oppose the court case and will do as directed by the Court. With Masisi having committed to revive the All Party Conference, it is necessary that these forum is used to map a way forward before it is too late. The earlier the better if we are to have another free and fair election, in which the citizens have trust in the entire process.

Next week August 25th Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will go to its crucial primary elections which were postponed a week ago amid allegations of its system having been hacked or tempered with. This will pave way for the 2019 general elections which have already raised a lot of controversies and the citizens are prepared to reject the outcome of the elections especially if the EVM will be imposed on them.

Recently we have witnessed bloodshed in the neighboring Zimbabwe where people did not accept the outcome of the elections where the Sunday's inauguration of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa was halted after a legal challenge by the opposition against the election result. MDC leader Nelson Chamisa says he has evidence to show that he was cheated out of the 30 July presidential vote. His party says the poll was marred by "mammoth theft and fraud", but the electoral commission insists that there was "no skullduggery".

It is our view that, election matters are too sensitive to be left to government or MPs alone to decide. Actually, they are not the right people to decide. It is the public which has the right to decide the manner in which they would elect their government. That is the basis of democracy.

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Business

18th January 2021
10 Best Forex Brokers

10 Best forex brokers that accepts Botswana Traders ( 2021 )

The best handpicked forex brokers for Botswana traders revealed for 2021. Trade with confidence with any of these licenced and regulated brokers.
1.  Exness

Exness is a popular and well-regulated broker based in Cyprus and the UK which offers traders with a variety of account types, powerful trading platforms, competitive trading conditions and more.

 

PROS

CONS

1.      Globally recognized broker1.      US clients not accepted
2.      Negative balance protection offered2.      Limited tradable financial instruments
3.      MetaTrader offered
4.      Demo account and Islamic account option offered
5.      Adequate leverage and reasonable minimum deposit requirements

2.  AvaTrade

AvaTrade is a popular and multi-award-winning Market Maker and STP broker which is regulated to offer comprehensive trading solutions in several jurisdictions.

 

PROS

CONS

1.      Strict regulation1.      US clients not accepted
2.      Negative balance protection2.      Variable spread accounts not offered
3.      Optimum execution speeds
4.      Multiple trading platforms offered
5.      Social trading supported, hedging and scalping allowed

3.  XM

XM is a popular and reputable broker which has been in operation since 2009. XM is strictly regulated by several regulatory entities and offers traders from around the world with access to global financial markets.

 

PROS

CONS

1.      Strict regulation1.      US clients not accepted
2.      Negative balance protection2.      Fixed spread accounts not offered
3.      Competitive trading conditions
4.      Variety of accounts offered
5.      High leverage ratio of 1:888

4.  eToro

eToro is a reputable and popular Market Maker broker in addition to being the leading social trading platform in the industry. eToro caters for various traders and investors from 140 countries, offering comprehensive trading solutions to both beginners and experts.

 

PROS

CONS

1.      Strictly regulated1.      US clients not accepted
2.      Client fund security guaranteed2.      Limited leverage for retail traders
3.      Commission-free trading3.      Fixed spreads not offered
4.      Large online community4.      MetaTrader not offered
5.      Demo account and Islamic account option provided

5.  IC Markets

IC Markets is an ECN broker based in Australia and Seychelles with regulation and authorization through ASIC. Established in 2007, IC Markets is one of the largest true ECN brokers in the world that offers traders access to global financial markets.

 

PROS

CONS

1.      Well-regulated1.      US clients not accepted
2.      True ECN broker2.      Fixed spread accounts not offered
3.      Low trading and non-trading fees
4.      Tight and competitive spreads
5.      Hedging and scalping allowed, social trading supported

6.  FBS

Established in 2009, FBS is a strictly regulated and reputable STP and ECN broker which has around 16 million registered traders from 190 countries worldwide.

 

FBS offers traders with more than 75 financial instruments which can be traded through powerful trading platforms, competitive trading conditions, a variety of account types, and more.

PROS

CONS

1.      Ultra-low deposit requirement1.      US, UK, Japan, Israel and several other countries not allowed
2.      Social trading supported2.      High spreads and commissions on some accounts
3.      Multiple account types offered3.      Limited trading tools
4.      MetaTrader offered
5.      24/7 dedicated customer support

7.  FxPro

FxPro is a UK-based NDD broker which is regulated by FCA, CySEC, FSCA, and SCB in facilitating the trade of more than 260 financial instruments spread across six asset classes.

PROS

CONS

1.      Multi-regulated1.      US, Canada, Iraq and others not accepted
2.      Multiple trading platforms offered2.      Social trading not supported
3.      Premium trader tools3.      Not the tightest spreads
4.      NDD Execution4.      Not the lowest commissions
5.      Expert analysis and VPS offered5.      Managed accounts not offered

8.  Alpari

Alpari is a well-regulated STP and ECN broker with nearly two decades worth experience in offering comprehensive trading solutions. Alpari boasts with 2 million registered traders from more than 150 countries worldwide.

PROS

CONS

1.      Well-regulated1.      US, Japan, Russia, and several other countries not accepted
2.      MetaTrader offered2.      Limited financial instruments
3.      PAMM accounts offered3.      No fixed spreads
4.      Multilingual customer support

 

9.  FXTM

FXTM is a UK, Cyprus, South Africa, and Mauritius-based broker which offers traders with more than 250 financial instruments to trade.

FXTM caters for both retail and professional clients and has tailormade solutions despite the trading needs and objectives of traders.

PROS

CONS

1.      Strict regulation1.      US clients not allowed
2.      Variety of financial instruments2.      Restricted leverage for EU traders
3.      Multiple account types
4.      Commission-free trading offered
5.      Low minimum deposit

 

10.        Olymp Trade

Olymp Trade is based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and offers traders with a wide range of tradable financial instruments.

Olymp Trade, as opposed to conventional brokers, offers traders with fixed time trades which can be done through a powerful proprietary trading platform.

PROS

CONS

1.      Low minimum deposit1.      High commission fees
2.      Training resources offered2.      Social trading not offered
3.      Controlled risks and rewards3.      Not regulated
4.      Market news and analysis4.      No support for automated trading
5.      24/7 dedicated customer support5.      MetaTrader not offered
6.

 

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Business

Diamond industry crises not over yet – De Beers Chief

13th January 2021
De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer: Bruce Cleaver

Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry  started gaining  positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into  thanks giving and holiday season.

However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.

The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.

The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.

This halted movement of buyers and shipment of  the rough goods , resulting  in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn  ballooning stockpiles as the upstream  operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.

The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.

However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.

Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.

De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.

“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.

The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.

The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.

Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.

“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.

In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”

All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.

After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.

However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.

Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.

These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.

For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.

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Business

Gov’t coffers depleting to record low levels 

13th January 2021
Dr Matsheka

Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.

The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering  the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.

The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.

National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.

As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.

On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is  prevailing,  the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.

According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.

However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion.  The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.

 

When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a 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.

Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.

Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.

Meanwhile  should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian  aids and international donors, because  foreign reserves are also on slow down.

During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.

The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020.  This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.

The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.

However latest statistics(October 2020)  from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with  government’s share of these funds significantly low.

Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.

Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up  from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.

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