Ministry of Finance and Economic Development this week launched its new frameworks contained in the six and five-year strategic plan and communications strategy respectively.
The ministry’ strategic plan, envisioned to drive the country‘s close monitoring and management of its fiscal and finance matters as well as maintaining economic stability has been running since 2017, and will be implemented until 2023, while the new communication strategy will be implemented from this year until 2023. Ministry of Finance has the vital mandate of coordination of national development planning; monitoring implementation, mobilising and managing financial and economic resources.
Minister Matambo noted that his ministry has been able to vehemently deliver on this mandate for years, guiding Botswana’s Macroeconomic frameworks and fiscal policies and protecting the country against domestic and global economic challenges. The cardinal deliverables in the new strategic plans intends to come up with economic stimulus initiatives that are designed to boost economic activity, while at the same time avoiding the risk of burdening the economy with unsustainable public spending.
“The whole point is to predominately help the country mitigate any looming threat from both internal and external threats such as domestic fiscal collapse and global economic recession,” he said. Matambo underscored that as the ministry in charge of public coffers, one of its key functions was to guard against misuse of public funds and reckless government spending.
“Inability to save for tough economic times is a window for various problems such as reduced availability of fiscal buffers needed to stimulate the economy in rough times; this also reduces the average portion of public finances available for long term investments in infrastructure, health or education in turn disrupting countries’ long-term development outlook,” he said.
To ensure the ministry harness maximum benefit from the plan, the ministry partially outsourced the formulation of the strategic plan to take advantage of available expertise and technical skills in the private sector while the communication strategy was developed in-house by a steering committee comprising of representatives from respective divisions within the ministry, under the leadership and guidance of senior management.
“The launch of these two documents sets out the ministry’s goals and objectives, gearing the ministry ‘s readiness and in full swing to the achievement of the priorities of the country’s eleventh National Development Plan (NDP 11) and ultimately the pillars of Vision 2036 and by extension, the sustainable development goals,” explained Matambo
Matambo said the ministry’s strategic plan contained eight key priority areas being accelerated implementation of the public finance management reforms; strengthening of monitoring and evaluation; re-engineering and automation of systems and processes; improving production of timely and accurate statistical information; implementing the initiative to increase and widen revenue base; improving project management processes; enhancing critical skills and transitioning to the new fiscal rules.
In order to enable successful implementation of these priorities, the ministry divided the strategic goals into three strategic themes, namely operational excellence, macroeconomic and financial management excellence and strategic partnerships. “These are expected to steer the focus towards our vision of becoming leaders and a model of excellence in financial and economic management for the prosperity of this country,” said Matambo
Giving an update on the ministry’s recent undertakings Matambo noted that inflation declined from 8.2 per cent in 2009 to between 3 per cent and 6 per cent since June 2013 to date. He highlighted that the Ministry improved regulatory framework of the country’s financial sector by setting up a Financial Stability Council in a bid to close-up and tighten oversight coordination.
The council consists of high ranking officials from Bank of Botswana together with Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) working with the Financial Intelligence Agency. The Council primarily focuses on coordinated macro-prudential monitoring, analysis and response with respect to any financial system imbalances or distress.
Matambo explained that the council will reinforce collaboration, cooperation and communication amongst the relevant authorities to achieve comprehensive monitoring and enforcement of legislation and regulations in order to maintain integrity and stability of the financial system. The ministry also recently introduced and rolled out automated systems like the Integrated Procurement Management System (IPMS) under the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), e-filling and e-payment of tax returns under Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), electronic funds transfer system under Office of the Accountant General and decentralisation of some services to ministries and departments in their regional offices.
The Special Elected Member of Parliament, who has been Finance Minister since 2009 added that lack of preparedness for sluggish economic times, causes fiscal challenges. “This requires us to restrain and control as well as prioritize public spending in a period of modest growth, and be keen to negative external shocks, such as oil price increases ,mineral commodities that may arise anytime unexpected,” emphasised Matambo.
Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.
WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.
Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.
This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time. The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.
According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.
“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.
According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.
The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.
Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.
According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.
According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.
Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.
Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.
Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.
The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.
According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.
“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.
According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.
When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.
“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.
According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.
Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.
“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.
High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.