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BITC reports 16 % performance decline

Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) has recorded a 16 % overall performance decline for their operational year 2016/17, the orghanisation’s annual report released last week has revealed.

According to the report, BITC, which operates as a parastatal under the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry (MITI) registered an overall performance of 74 %, the assessment is predominantly reliant on corporate delivery and return on investment – which takes appreciation of the BITC mandate and purpose. The 74 percent reflects a 16 percent performance decline compared to the 90 % realized in the 2015/16 year.

BITC solicited an excess of 3 billon pula in capital investment for the period under review taking the total of investment capitalization to over P10 billion since inception as reported by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama in his State of the Nation Address(SONA) in November last year. “Our targeted investment promotion efforts resulted in a total capital investment of P3.08 billion,” reads the report.

According to the investment promotion arm the total capital investment achieved is attributed to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies which contributed P1.5 billion, while business  expansions injected P618 million;  and a domestic investments of P964 million was realized. The Financial and Business Services sector, which is one of priority sectors under BITC investment promotion mandate delivered a whooping P901.5 million, accounting for 29.24% of the total capital investment realized.

Reaffirming President Khama’s SONA words  ,BITC states that total employment of 3156 jobs resulted from these investments, which is an increment compared to 1709 jobs recorded in the 2015/16 operating year. “The majority of jobs were created through Domestic Investment and Expansions (2208), while FDI registered 948 jobs,” reveals the report.

To promote an export led economy, the BITC has established an export portfolio which is managed by the export promotion department. This is a very important segment of the BITC mandate as it facilitates and assists Botswana companies with reaching foreign markets which is vital for business growth considering the fact that Botswana only has a population of 2 million people. According to the BITC annual report the portfolio exceeded its target of P2.22 billion, reaching an export revenue totaling P2.23 billion.

“Existing local products were exported to new markets of Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, USA, Hong Kong and the European Union. In addition six (6) newly produced products were added to the export portfolio including forma packs (Namibia), aluminum windows and designs (RSA), latex male condoms (RSA), vinyl floor tiles (RSA), food cans (RSA) and Cellular phones (Mozambique),” reads the Chief Executive officer‘s statement in the annual report.

One of the key milestones last year was the launch of the One Stop Service Center which facilitates all requirements of prospective investors and foreign professionals seeking to established serious businesses in Botswana. Under this year’s review the BITC reveals that there were 381 government authorizations, out of which a total of 307 were approved. “The rejection rate at the BITC One Stop Shop stood at 6.6% in 2016/2017; we have made proposals to Government to create a Business Immigration Selection Board to make our work and residence processes and outcomes more predictable and with greater certainty.” 

“We continue to monitor and are alert to the competitiveness of competing African countries. Countries such as Mauritius and Rwanda lead the pack in providing a more conducive business climate and thus competitive environment for attracting investors. The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, through the BITC’s advocacy is working on enacting a Business Facilitation Law, which will look to confer a higher degree of predictability and certainty to outcomes with respect to all government authorizations.”

The issue of immigration policies and work and residence permit rejection has been noted by stakeholders and investment as a possible deterrent and sabotaging factor to Botswana‘s FDI efforts. This is so as asserted by speakers in different platforms that Botswana has considerable good economic & political environment but still ranks behind poor governed countries such the DRC and Mozambique in attracting foreign investors.

Chairman of the BITC Board, seasoned investment executive, Victor Senye, now a business man shared that his organization adopted a move towards a new strategic direction to drive performance and efficiency in approach. “This would look towards linking our corporate structure and aligning it to the new strategy, reviewing our on the-ground personnel to ensure that we have the right people with the appropriate skills to engage with our varied investors, as well as considering appointment of specialist private sector advisory counsel to the Board,” he said. Senye revealed that BITC will continue to inspect the markets and review the investment requisites and make well informed recommendations to Government.

FINACIAL HIGHLIGHTS

Parastatals and government agencies especially those that solely and/or heavily depend on government funding for operation are scrutinized time and again for lavish expenditures and less return on investment. Although the organization declined in performance, BITC has by far surpassed the annually monetary resources injected by taxpayers in the form of subvention funds as over P3 billion worth of business transaction was solicited.

However as of March 2017 BITC realized a deficit of P 20,784,835 which is largely contributed by Investment Property fair value loss amounting to P 29,314,072. According to the report the BITC Gaborone West Industrial factory shells alone realized a loss in value of P 8, 550,000 as a result of the subdued rental market.

“The overall subvention was yet again reduced by 1% during the financial year under review, which was geared towards alleviation of the financial meltdown of BCL. The more integrated approach to financing marketing and promotional activities contributed to the improvement in operational efficiencies and budget utilization was optimized at 95%, with a deficit of P 20,784,835 as at 31st March 2017.”

BITC is reliant on Government funding with an opportunity to generate a target of 15% of its budget requirement from internally generated sources such as the rental of factory shells and global expo income. For the year under review, the center managed to generate 16% from internal sources to meet its budgetary requirements. In the financial year ended March 2017, BITC was allocated a total subvention of P98, 830,560 which was reduced by 1% during the year by Government. BITC spent P52,362,408 on employees’ remuneration and over P8 million on the 2016 Global Expo amongst other expenses.

BITC was established by Government in 2012 as a merger of BEDIA and other business facilitation agencies, the organization is mandated and tasked with investment facilitation, promotion of private sector involvement as well as development of conducive environment for easy of doing business amongst others all in a bid to realize export led, diversified and significantly growing economy.

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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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