Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism has vowed to continue supporting, organizing and coming up with more events in various tourist attraction practices to boost revenue within the tourism sector and also support and develop other economic sectors.
The Organization rides on the support of the country‘s highest office. President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama personally is the country’s number 1 environment, wildlife and natural resources conservation activist. Since he attained office 9 years ago he has been at the forefront of most activities related to tourism.
BTO has facilitated and supported a number of events, the likes of Khawa Dune challenge which has grown to be a national event of repute, the Gaborone International air show, Race for Rhinos and the Makgadikgadi Epic amongst others .These events according to BTO does not only cultivate cultural diversity, unity, ownership but also puts food in small business owners’ tables as well as unlock many other value chain opportunities.
Julian Blackbeard, Marketing Executive at BTO observed that through such tourism events, they were not only looking at diversifying their products, but also looking to boost the economy so that locals could benefit by getting the returns of having such events. Blackbeard said, to further boost wildlife tourism and raise awareness about Botswana’s unique environmental features and epic landscapes BTO intends to come up with various events and grow existing ones into regional and continental showcase recognized globally.
She reiterated that events like Gaborone international Air show which has been criticized by other observers especially from the political space as just a mere leisure cash spinning event and waste of taxpayers’ money by the organization actually has much more benefit beyond tourism. Blackbeard explains that events like the air show also market Botswana as a diverse investment centre as different people from around the world‘s developed economies grace the event. “This people don’t only sleep in our hotels, spend money here, use our local logistics but also get to know about other existing investment opportunities from other economic sectors, not necessarily tourism,” she said.
Furthermore the BTO is of the view that tourism events also encourage Batswana to visit their own country other than flying outside for holidays and leisure excursions. Currently Batswana are of the view that visiting Durban and for example Mauritius as holiday destination is much better as the latter has much more to offer as there are side refreshing and amusing organized events other than just natural features and wildlife. “We cannot rely on wildlife alone as sources of revenue for the sector because climate change and global warming may deplete the attractiveness of this place thus diverse tourism events are the answer,” said Blackbeard.
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.
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.
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”