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Botswana hosts Africa gaming regulators meet

Botswana Gambling Authority will host the 14th Gaming Regulators Africa Forum (GRAFT) 2018 Conference.  The Annual Conference, which is a key activity in the GRAF calendar, will be held at Gaborone International Convention Center from the 26th until 29th August this year.

The Conference will be held under the theme: “The socio-economic impact of harmonized gaming regulation in the era of rapid technological advancement”.  Gambling Authority, Chief Executive Officer Thuli Johnson noted that Botswana as a new member of GRAFT was highly privileged to host the event ‘‘Hosting GRAF is a great milestone for the Gambling Authority, considering that we are in our formative years,” he told media this week.

 He explained that the Gaming Regulators Africa Forum guards communities and citizens through the adherence of gaming regulatory laws applicable to each jurisdiction.  “It aligns matters that affect this industry and ensures that Africa and the sub-Sahara do not become dumping grounds for old and degenerating gaming technologies. It implements initiatives that are aimed at curbing problem gambling and ensures counseling and education for the affected,” he said.

 Johnson reiterated that the conference was key in the business of gaming regulators in Africa as it gives them the platform to get to know one another, collaborate, and share best practices , programs and ways in which they can regulate better.  “As an authority in its formative years this stands to benefit us, as we gathered information, knowledge and technical support from other well established regulators when we set up our operational tools and human resources structures as well as regulatory frameworks, that also helped us save cost that would otherwise have been incurred from outsourcing and engaging consultants,” explained the GA boss.

Johnson revealed that the conference will further deliberate on the key issues such as cyber crime and illegal gambling.  “By nature this is an industry that is prone and vulnerable to highly technical criminal practices such as cross bother illegal gambling, systems hacking and unauthorized gaming,” he said.  According to Johnson the conference would assist GRAFT members forge ways in which the organization can be moved to the next level.

 “We will deliberate and formalize some of the proposed structures and frameworks on how we can transform the organization to an entity that benefits its members better in the areas of human resources capacity building, tightening regulatory mechanism, training and further collaborations,” he indicated.  

On the part of Botswana, the Gambling Authority Executive explained that hosting the conference would benefit Botswana as successfully delivering an international event will go a long way in contributing to reputable Botswana‘s global profile, and build  value adding continental network for his organization and by extension the country.

  “This conference will also boost our local economy as the conference delegates will spend money here by utilising our logistics and hospitality services, they will also support our small medium enterprise,” he said. Johnson also highlighted that to further ensure Botswana leverages on these international visitors, his organization will treat the delegates to a gala dinner at the Three Chiefs Monument space at the end of the conference to expose them to Botswana’s landscapes and also engage with them on other matters of socio-economic development.

 “This conference will bring about potential investors, business people and several opportunities because the Gambling and Gaming industry on is its own an extremely moneyed space of trade and engagement, so we stand to benefit more as the host across, we have organized other social event on the sidelines of the conference to afford the delegates an opportunity to interact with other local business people” he said. Thuli Johnson also added that conference members will also engage in philanthropic and humanitarian work for charity purposes.

 “We has selected six charity organizations to which our delegates will break in six groups and participates in community work, interact with the charity organizations and make donations” he said, adding that the conference will leave lasting footprints in Botswana.
 The Gambling Authority of Botswana was established in 2012 charged with regulating the gambling industry in Botswana.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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