Matambo decries misuse and reckless spending by Government
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo has warned that the 2018/19 budget will carry a deficit of around 8 billion pula primarily due to continued slow growth in revenues and increased expenditure pressures.
Minister Matambo revealed the development to stakeholders at a Budget Pitso on Tuesday. Government had also expected the first three financial years of National Development Plan 11 to run on budget deficit.
According to the minister, growth in total revenue had been restrained by relatively weak commodity prices.
Reading from the Budget Strategy Paper, a blueprint for the budget produced annually at least three months before the Budget Speech, Matambo noted clearly the need to apply strict fiscal discipline throughout the public sector if government is to contain the expected budget deficits in the medium term, given the constrained resources envelope.
Minister Matambo further advised against misuse of resources and reckless spending by government arms and department encouraging the citizenry and civil service to efficiently and effectively deploy government limited resources to provide the necessary economic infrastructure needed for growth and basic social services.
The Finance Minister told attendants that government will closely monitor expenditure and exit funds during the 2018/2019 financial year to ensure that the limited resources and funds are put to good use.
“The projected global growth rates for 2017 and 2018 although higher than 2016 are below the pre-crisis averages, especially for most advanced economies and for commodity-exporting emerging and developing economies,” he said.
It also emerged at the meeting that to avoid being caught up in the vicious circle of deficits and debt, there was need for continued focus on prudent management of expenditure in order to achieve goals envisioned under national priority areas identified in the National Development Plan (NDP) 11.
Government emphasized its acting plan as stated in NDP 11 which clearly states the need to tackle the problem of reducing or eliminating abject poverty, creating sustainable employment opportunities and improving income inequality. Botswana’s income inequality is ranked amongst the worst in the world indicating a concerning difference between the rich and the poor.
Matambo also highlighted that the domestic economy had rebounded to register a positive growth rate of 4.3 per cent in 2016, after experiencing mild recession in 2015. He noted that the national economic growth momentum was anticipated to continue in 2017 and 2018 as the economy is expected to register a growth rate of 4.7 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.
“The growth rate will largely be supported by the services sector,” he said. The inflation rate was said to have been stable and projected to remain as such in the medium term, within the Bank of Botswana objective range of three to six per cent. Notwithstanding the inflation rate stability it was cautioned that the rebound in commodity prices and food prices posed upside risks to the inflation outlook.
Economic and Financial Policy Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Dr Taufila Nyamadzabo said that Botswana’s economy was stable and impressively recovering from the recent economic meltdown.
Dr Nyamadzabo reiterated Matambo’s sentiments that after recording a decline of -1.7 per cent in 2015, the domestic economy recovered strongly to register a positive growth of 4.3 per cent in 2016.
He observed that the positive rebound in the domestic economy was largely due to the improvement in the trade, Hotels and restaurants as well as transport and communications sectors, which recorded positive growth rates of 13.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.
The growth in the trade, hotels and restaurants sector was mainly driven by the downstream diamond industries, which contributed significantly to the wholesale sub-sector.
The Financial Policy think tank reiterated that the water and electricity sector, which supported other sectors, registered a higher growth of 123.0 per cent in 2016, but its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product was insignificant. Other sectors, which recorded positive growth rates in 2016, were construction with 4.2 per cent and finance and banking services with 3.8 per cent.
The agriculture and mining sectors, however recorded negative growth rates in 2016 with the latter mainly due to the decline in the copper production as well as the provisional liquidation of the BCL Mine in October last year.
The mining sector was expected to recover in line with the positive global economic prospects, while the other sectors would continue to benefit from the implementation of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) adopted by government to boost economic growth and create employment opportunities.
In terms of domestic economic outlook, Dr Nyamadzabo noted that the GDP was projected to grow by 4.7 per cent, 5.3 per cent and 5.0 per cent in 2017, 2018 and 2019 receptively.
Stakeholders were told that the average economic growth during the National Development Plan 10 was 3.9% per annum, which was slightly above the 3.3 per cent target, but below the 7.5 per cent Vision 2016 target.
Experts have noted that some downside risks that come with positive global economic outlook, which among others include structural problems such as low productivity growth and high income inequality would negatively impact Botswana’s economic growth is not accommodated for by budgets and fiscal projections.
Botswana has recorded its first trade surplus for 2021 since the only one for the year in January.
The country’s exports for the month of July surpassed the value of imports, Statistics Botswana’s July International Merchandise Trade data reveals.
Released last Friday, the monthly trade digest reports a positive jump in the trade balance graph against the backdrop of a series of trade deficits in the preceding months since January this year.
According to the country’s significant data body, imports for the month were valued at P7.232 billion, reflecting a decline of 6.6 percent from the revised June 2021 value of P7.739 billion.
Total exports during the same month amounted to P7.605 billion, showing an increase of 6.1 percent over the revised June 2021 value of P7.170 billion.
A trade surplus of P373.2 million was recorded in July 2021. This follows a revised trade deficit of P568.7 million for June 2021.
For the total exports value of P7.605 billion, the Diamonds group accounted for 91.2 percent (P6.936 billion), followed by Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Salt & Soda Ash with 2.2 percent (P169.7 million) and 1.3 percent (P100.9 million) respectively.
Asia was the leading destination for Botswana exports, receiving 65.2 percent (P4.96 billion) of total exports during July 2021.
These exports mostly went to the UAE and India, having received 26.3 percent (P1. 99 billion) and 18.7 percent (P1.422 billion) of total exports, respectively. The top most exported commodity to the regional block was Diamonds.
Exports destined to the European Union amounted to P1.64 billion, accounting for 21.6 percent of total exports.
Belgium received almost all exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.5 percent (P1.6337 billion) of total exports during the reporting period.
The Diamonds group was the leading commodity group exported to the EU. The SACU region received exports valued at P790.7 million, representing 10.4 percent of total exports.
Diamonds and Salt & Soda Ash commodity groups accounted for 37.8 percent (P298.6 million) and 6.2 percent (P48.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.
South Africa received 9.8 percent (P745.0 million) of total exports during the month under review. The Diamonds group contributed 39.9 percent (P297.4 million) to all goods destined for the country.
In terms of imports, the SACU region contributed 62.7 percent (P4.534 billion) to total imports during July.
The topmost imported commodity groups from the SACU region were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco, and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 33.3 percent (P1.510 billion), 17.4 percent (P789.4 million) and 12.7 percent (P576.7 million) to total imports from the region, respectively.
South Africa contributed 60.1 percent (P4.3497 billion) to total imports during July 2021.
Fuel accounted for 32.1 percent (P1.394 billion) of imports from that country. Food, Beverages & Tobacco contributed 17.7 percent (P772.0 million) to imports from South Africa.
Namibia contributed 2.0 percent (P141.1 million) to the overall imports during the period under review. Fuel was the main commodity imported from that country at 82.1 percent (P115.8 million).
During the months, imports representing 63.5 percent (P4.5904 billion) were transported into the country by Road.
Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 22.7 percent (P1.645 billion) and 13.8 percent (P996.2 million), respectively.
During the month, goods exported by Air amounted to P6, 999.2 million, accounting for 92.0 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P594.2 million (7.8 percent).
Founders from twenty companies have been accepted into the program from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa
The 4th Cohort of the Stanford Seed Transformation Program – Southern Africa (STP), a collaboration between Stanford Graduate School of Business and De Beers Group commenced classes on 20 September 2021. According to Otsile Mabeo, Vice President Corporate Affairs, De Beers Global Sightholder Sales: “We are excited to confirm that 20 companies have been accepted into the 4th Seed Transformation Programme from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The STP is an important part of the De Beers Group Building Forever sustainability strategy and demonstrates our commitment to the ‘Partnering for Thriving Communities’ pillar that aims at enhancing enterprise development in countries where we operate in the Southern African region”. Jeffrey Prickett, Global Director of Stanford Seed: “Business owners and their key management team members undertake a 12-month intensive leadership program that includes sessions on strategy and finance, business ethics, and design thinking, all taught by world-renowned Stanford faculty and local business practitioners. The program is exclusively for business owners and teams of for-profit companies or for-profit social enterprises with annual company revenues of US$300,000 – US$15million.” The programme will be delivered fully virtually to comply with COVID 19 protocols. Out of the 20 companies, 6 are from Botswana, 1 Namibia, and 13 South Africa. Since the partnership’s inception, De Beers Group and Stanford Seed have supported 74 companies, 89 founders/CEOs, and approximately 750 senior-level managers to undertake the program in Southern Africa.
Minergy, the coal mining and trading company with the Masama coal mine, this week released results for the year ended 30 June 2021. The company achieved revenue of P193 million (2020: P81 million) with significant improvement in sales volumes surpassing 415 000 tonnes sold for the year.
The performance was divided into two distinct periods with very different operating environments. The first eight-month period (July 2020 – February 2021), was negatively impacted by delayed funding, COVID-19 impacts and excessive rain; and the last four-month period (March – June 2021), was a more stable production environment moving toward nameplate capacity.
According to Minergy CEO, Morné du Plessis, production and sales initially recovered in July and August 2020 with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and recoveries were further bolstered by the successful launch of the rail siding. Delays experienced in concluding the funding contributed to contractors limiting operations to manage arrears.
“However, the heavy rains we experienced from December 2020 through February 2021 flooded the mine pit making access difficult and impacting both production and sales. Fortunately, the rain subsided in March 2021, and we entered a more stable environment, with a positive impact on operations. Good recoveries in production and sales were experienced during the last four-month period of the year, with the mine moving closer toward a breakeven position.”
“Despite these operational constraints, including the effects of COVID-19 on logistics and manning of shifts, we expect to reach consistent nameplate capacity in the 2022 financial year,” du Plessis added.
In addition to the revenue reported above, the company incurred costs of sales of P256 million (2020: P150 million) with operating costs of P23 million (2020: P31 million). This effectively resulted in an operating loss of P86 million (2020: P100 million). Finance costs of P51 million (2020: P17 million) were incurred, bringing the net loss before taxation to P136 million (2020: P117 million).
Du Plessis explains that the adverse conditions in the first eight-month period contributed to 86% of the gross loss, while the more stable four-month period alone contributed to 50% of total sales value, helping to decrease monthly gross losses, albeit below breakeven levels.
The company benefited from a strengthening in the South African Rand (“ZAR”) supporting higher back-on- mine sales prices.
“As announced, we’re pleased to have secured P125 million of additional convertible debt funding through the Minerals Development Company Botswana (Proprietary) Limited (“MDCB”). Minergy remains grateful for this support.”
He added that the first tranche of additional funding provided by the MDCB had been received in December 2020, which allowed Minergy to settle the majority of the contractor’s arrears and allowed their teams to be remobilised. The second and final tranche was paid post the financial year-end and will allow the business to reach nameplate capacity in the new financial year.”
COAL SALES AND MINE PERFORMANCE
Sales volumes increased by 110%, supported by increased sales in Botswana and internationally in South Africa and Namibia. Sales for June 2021 exceeded 56 000 tonnes, a record since the inception of the mine, with pricing increasing late in the financial year on the back of buoyant international prices and a strengthening ZAR.
Minergy also concluded a further 12-month off-take agreement to the existing off-take agreement, with a further agreement finalised post year end.
Overburden moved during the reporting period increased by 86% and extracted coal by 50%. Coal mined in June 2021 alone exceeded 100 000 tonnes. “This is a good performance considering the challenges faced such as sacrificing pre-stripping activities for a period to manage arrears, excessive rain and COVID-19,” du Plessis indicated.
“The wash plant was initially starved of coal due to the factors noted already. Despite this, overall plant throughput performance was 37% higher than 2020. Consistent output was supported by the completion of the Stage 2 rigid crushing section as well as the water saving dewatering screen with filter press contributing to a reduction in water usage of 60% per tonne of coal. A record throughput of more than 84 000 tonnes was achieved in March 2021 and this consistency has been maintained.”
According to du Plessis, the completion of Stage 4 of the Processing Plant, the rigid screening and stock handling section, remains a key optimisation step, which has associated benefits. “The completion was unfortunately delayed by a southern African wide shortage of structural steel but was commissioned post year-end.”
Minergy expects the positive momentum in international coal pricing for southern African coal to remain in place. Higher coal prices have resulted in coal being withdrawn from the inland market in favour of lucrative international markets. Du Plessis added that the regional market is currently under- supplied with sized coal, which supports higher pricing and new customer opportunities for Minergy.
“Our objective for the 2022 financial year is to achieve nameplate capacity by completing final ramp-up of operations. This will enable the company to generate sufficient cash flow to stabilise the business at breakeven or better. The bullish coal market is also providing support. COVID-19 will still be closely managed, and we look forward to the lifting of the State of Emergency, as announced, and trust that vaccination programmes will achieve herd immunity in Botswana during the next 12 months.”
Du Plessis expressed his excitement on prospects stating that, “The Eskom due diligence process is continuing, and we are hopeful of receiving feedback during the current financial year. In addition to this opportunity, Minergy is also investigating participation in the request by the Government of Botswana to provide a 300MW power station for which the company has been shortlisted.”
The approved process to issue shares for cash is showing positive leads and he concluded by saying that a listing in London is still being investigated.