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A fragile recovery

Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to recover to 2.6 percent in 2017 from the sharp deceleration to 1.3 percent in 2016, and to strengthen somewhat in 2018. The upturn reflects recovering global commodity prices and improvements in domestic conditions.

Most of the rebound will come from Angola and Nigeria—the largest oil exporters. However, investment is expected to recover only very gradually, reflecting still tight foreign exchange liquidity conditions in oil exporters and low investor confidence in South Africa. Fiscal consolidation will slow the pace of recovery in metals exporters.

Growth is expected to remain solid among non-resource-intensive countries. External downside risks to the outlook include stronger-than-expected tightening of global financing conditions, weaker-than-envisioned improvements in commodity prices, and the threat of protectionism. A key domestic risk is the lack of implementation of reforms that are needed to maintain durable macroeconomic stability and sustain growth.

After slowing sharply in 2016, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is recovering, supported by modestly rising commodity prices, strengthening external demand, and the end of drought in several countries. Despite recent declines, oil prices are 10 percent higher than their average levels in 2016.

Metals prices have strengthened more than expected. Meanwhile, above-average rainfalls are boosting agricultural production and electricity generation in countries that were hit earlier by El Niño-related droughts (e.g., South
Africa, Zambia). Security threats subsided in several countries. In Nigeria, militants’ attacks on oil pipelines decreased.

The economic recession in Nigeria is receding. In the first quarter of 2017, GDP fell by 0.5 percent (y/y), compared with a 1.7 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2016. The Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturers returned to expansionary territory in April, indicating growth in the sector after contraction in the first quarter. Non-resource-intensive countries, including those in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), have been expanding at a solid pace.

Several factors are preventing a more vigorous recovery. In Angola and Nigeria, foreign exchange controls are distorting the foreign exchange market, thereby constraining activity in the non-oil sector. In South Africa, political uncertainty and low business confidence are weighing on investment. The previously delayed fiscal adjustment to lower oil revenues in the Central


African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) has started, restraining domestic demand. In Mozambique, the government’s default in January and heavy debt burden are deterring investment. In contrast to oil and metals prices, world cocoa prices dropped, reducing exports and fiscal revenues in cocoa producers (e.g., Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana).


In many countries, banks are seeking to limit credit risk by tightening lending standards and reducing credit to the private sector. Lastly, the drought in East Africa, which reduced agricultural production at the end of 2016, continued into 2017, adversely affecting activity in some countries (e.g., Kenya, Uganda), and contributing to famine in others (e.g., Somalia, South Sudan). Current account deficits of oil and metals exporters are narrowing, helped by the pickup in commodity prices.


Oil exports are rebounding in Nigeria on the back of an uptick in oil production from fields previously damaged by militants’ attacks. Mining companies across the region are resuming production and exports. In contrast, current account balances have remained under pressure in a number of non-resource-intensive countries.


In these countries, capital goods imports have been strong, reflecting ambitious public investment programs. Capital inflows in the region are rebounding from their low level in 2016. Nigeria tapped the Eurobond market twice in the first quarter of 2017, followed by Senegal in May. Sovereign spreads have declined across the region from their November 2016 peak, with the notable exception of Ghana where they rose due to concerns about fiscal policy slippages. This trend reflects low financial market volatility, and a broader rebound in investor risk appetite for emerging market and developing economies (EMDE) assets.


Regional inflation is gradually decelerating from its high level in 2016. Although a process of disinflation has started in Angola and Nigeria, inflation in both countries remains elevated, owing to a highly depreciated parallel market exchange rate. Inflation eased in metals exporters, reflecting stabilizing currencies after sharp depreciations, and lower food prices due to improved weather conditions (e.g., South Africa, Zambia).

An exception is Mozambique, where inflation was still above 21 percent (y/y) in April, reflecting continued depreciation. Inflationary pressures increased in non-resource-intensive countries. In East Africa, drought led to a spike in food prices, notably in Kenya. However, in countries where the drought has been less severe, inflation has remained within central banks’ targets. Low inflation in Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, and steadily falling inflation in Ghana allowed central banks to cut interest rates in early 2017.

Fiscal deficits remain elevated across the region. Oil and metals exporters are still running sizable fiscal deficits. Fiscal balances have deteriorated in several non-resource-intensive countries, reflecting a continued expansion in public infrastructure.
Large fiscal deficits and, in some cases, steep exchange rate depreciations, have resulted in rising public debt ratios in the region (Box 2.6.1). A number of countries have embarked on fiscal consolidation to stabilize government debt (e.g., Chad, South Africa). In early April, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to sub-investment status on account of heightened political uncertainty.

Outlook
 
Growth in SSA is forecast to pick up to 2.6 percent in 2017, and average 3.4 percent in 2018-19, slightly above population growth. The recovery is predicated on moderately rising commodity prices and reforms to tackle macroeconomic imbalances. The forecasts are below those in January, reflecting a slower-than-anticipated recovery in several oil and metals exporters.

Per capita output growth—which is projected to increase from -0.1 percent in 2017 to 0.7 percent in 2018-19—will remain insufficient to achieve poverty reduction goals in the region if the constraints to more vigorous growth persist (Bhorat and Tarp 2016).

Growth in South Africa is projected to recover from 0.6 percent in 2017 to 1.5 percent in 2018-19. A rebound in net exports is expected to only partially offset weaker than previously forecast growth of private consumption and investment, as borrowing costs rise following the sovereign rating downgrade to sub-investment level. For Nigeria, growth is expected to rise from 1.2 percent in 2017 to 2.5 percent in 2018-19, helped by a rebound in oil production, as security in the oil-producing region improves, and by an increase in fiscal spending.


In Angola, growth is projected to increase from 1.2 percent in 2017 to 1.5 percent in 2019, reflecting a slight pickup of activity in the industrial sector as energy supplies improve. The subdued recovery in the region’s largest economies reflects the slower-than-expected adjustment to low commodity prices in Angola and Nigeria, and higher-than-anticipated policy uncertainty in South Africa.  In other oil exporters, growth is expected to strengthen in Ghana as increased oil and gas production boosts exports and domestic electricity production.

Growth will be weaker than previously projected in CEMAC, as larger-than-envisioned fiscal adjustment reduces public investment. In several metals exporters, high inflation and tight fiscal policy will be a greater drag on activity than previously expected. Growth in non-resource-intensive countries should remain solid, on the basis of infrastructure investment, resilient services sectors, and the recovery of agricultural production.

Meanwhile the World Bank forecasts that global economic growth will strengthen to 2.7 percent in 2017 as a pickup in manufacturing and trade, rising market confidence, and stabilizing commodity prices allow growth to resume in commodity-exporting emerging market and developing economies.  Growth in advanced economies is expected to accelerate to 1.9 percent in 2017, a benefit to their trading partners.


Amid favorable global financing conditions and stabilizing commodity prices, growth in emerging market and developing economies as a whole will pick up to 4.1 percent this year from 3.5 percent in 2016. Nevertheless, substantial risks cloud the outlook. These include the possibility of greater trade restriction, uncertainty about trade, fiscal and monetary policy, and, over the longer term, persistently weak productivity and investment growth. Global growth is projected to strengthen to 2.7 percent in 2017, as expected. Emerging market and developing economies are anticipated to grow 4.1 percent – faster than advanced economies.

© 2017 International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank

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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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