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Mobile broadband, voice price cuts

The Ministry of Transport and Communications, through Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), has started implementing a Pricing Framework which seeks to align to cost, the retail prices for mobile voice and mobile broadband.


This is expected to lower the cost of doing business in Botswana and give consumers value for money. Implementation of the Framework has been phased over three years starting June 2017. The implementation has started with the removal of mobile Termination Rates and the removal of the difference in prices between the off-net premiums (between networks) and on-net (same network) rates.
 

According to the Ministry’s permanent secretary, Mr Kabelo Ebineng, the objective is to eliminate the off-net premiums to ensure that operators charge consumers the same tariffs for all calls between and within networks. He says BOCRA has been mandated to regulate prices for telecommunications/ICT services. Ebineng states that over the years, BOCRA has been conducting studies to determine the cost of providing services and the appropriate pricing levels. The principle is that prices must, to the extent possible, reflect the cost of providing service, he observes.
 

The permanent secretary at the Ministry notes that the outcome of the recent Cost and Pricing Study undertaken by BOCRA has revealed that the cost of doing business is high in general and in particular in providing telecommunications/ICT services in Botswana. “This is due to the fact that Botswana has a unique characteristic of a large land mass, relatively small population, is landlocked and almost all ICT equipment and solutions are imported,” he writes in a response to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

 

Meanwhile the study further revealed that the cost of providing mobile broadband is significantly higher than the retail price that the consumers are being charged. It has also been established that the retail price for mobile voice is significantly higher than the cost of providing the service. The current pricing regime by mobile providers is such that prices for voice services are used to subsidize mobile broadband data cost.
 

Currently, mobile broadband bundled data prices range from P0.13 to P0.67 per megabyte depending on the type of package subscribed for. Out of bundle data prices range from P0.90 to P0 .99 per megabyte. In addition, the prices for fixed broadband (ADSL) charged by BTCL, which has the largest customer base, vary by speed.
 

According to Ebineng, in order to address some of the challenges, the Ministry has developed a Broadband Strategy with the overall vision to connect every citizen, business, community and the country to a high-speed broadband infrastructure at the appropriate quality of services and affordable prices. As part of the implementation of the strategy, initiatives have been put in place to address the issue of high tariffs, the permanent secretary said.


Ebineng further indicates that Government, through Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFinet, is deploying the national fibre backbone to connect villages to the telecommunications network; Government, again through BoFinet, is rolling out fibre to the premises (FTTx) in cities, towns, and some major villages.


Ebineng also shares that the rollout of the national fibre backbone and fibre to the premises are meant to reduce the burden of providing service by developing key national ICT infrastructure. This would be very expensive or prohibitive for individual operators to roll out themselves. “All operators are instead utilizing this infrastructure on open access and transparent principles all in an effort to promote universal access.” 


Recently the Public Accounts Committee had expressed concern that it was too expensive to do business in Botswana due to the cost of data. They had wanted to know the basic cost of data. The cost of doing Business in Botswana has been found to be dreadful by the World Bank Group. 

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P230 million Phikwe revival project kicks off

19th October 2020
industrial hub

Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status.  The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.

This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago.  In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.

However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced.  Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.

The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.

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IMF projects deeper recession for 2020, slow recovery for 2021

19th October 2020

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.

On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April.  For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.

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Botswana partly closed economy a further blow of 4.2 fall in revenue

19th October 2020

The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.

Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.

Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).

“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.

Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.

This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.

For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.

Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers.  “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.

‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’

According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.

Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.

“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.

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