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Investment weakness in commodity exporters

Introduction


Investment growth in commodity-exporting EMDEs has also slowed substantially, falling from 7.1 percent in 2010 to 1.6 percent in 2015. In about two-thirds of commodity-exporting EMDEs, investment growth was below its long-term average in 2015. Weakness in investment has been broad-based and includes both public and private sources.

 

Subdued growth prospects and deteriorating terms of trade, compounded by rising political instability, contributed to the investment slowdown. The fall in commodity prices, for instance, accounts for 1.5 percentage point of the total decline in investment growth in commodity exporters between 2011 and 2015. A 10 percent increase in VIX volatility index is associated with a 0.5 percent decline in investment growth within a year in these countries.

 

Weakening investment occurs at a time when many of these economies have major investment needs, especially in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, and urbanization (World Bank 2017). Despite stabilization in commodity prices over the course of 2016, a double-digit cumulative decline from early-2011 peaks created a major terms-of-trade shock for commodity-exporting EMDEs. A number of them are still struggling to adjust to the prospects of continued low commodity prices. GDP in commodity-exporting EMDEs is estimated to have grown by 0.3 percent in 2016, well below the 5.6 percent pace of commodity-importing EMDEs.


Against this background, this Special Focus section addresses the following questions: (1) How has investment growth in commodity-exporting EMDEs evolved? (2) What are the sources of the investment slowdown in commodity-exporting EMDEs? (3) Which policies can help reignite investment growth? How has investment in commodity exporting EMDEs evolved?


During 2003-08, investment growth in commodity exporting EMDEs reached historic highs, averaging 11.7 percent per year, more than twice the long-term average growth rate of 4.6 percent. The investment boom in commodity exporters reflected soaring commodity prices, which encouraged investment in resource exploration and development and, in anticipation of higher future incomes, non-resource projects (World Bank 2016).


However, investment growth in commodity exporters slowed steadily from 7.1 percent in 2010 to 1.6 percent in 2015. The deceleration was even more pronounced among energy exporters, where investment eased from 8.9 percent in 2010 to 1.8 percent in Investment growth in commodity-exporting emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) has declined sharply since 2010, and was below its long-term average in about two-thirds of these economies in 2015.

 

This slowdown reflects weak growth prospects, elevated uncertainty, deteriorated terms of trade, and increased private debt burdens, among other factors. Policymakers face weakened fiscal positions and generally above-target inflation levels and therefore have limited macroeconomic policy space to reignite investment growth.


Conditions should improve, however, in light of the expected recovery in commodity prices. In addition, possible fiscal stimulus in key major economies and potential positive spillover effects to other economies represent an upside risk to the global outlook (World Bank 2017). What are the sources of investment growth slowdown in commodity- exporting EMDEs? Headwinds to investment include weak growth prospects, severe adverse terms-of-trade shocks, rapid accumulation of private debt, and recently, heightened policy uncertainty in major economies.


Weak GDP growth prospects


Output growth in commodity-exporting EMDEs has slowed since the financial crisis, dropping from 8.9 percent in 2011 to 0.4 percent in 2015, levels well below the pre-crisis average (2003-08) of 11.5 percent (World Bank 2017). Decelerating output growth prospects accounted for about 1.3 percentage points of the slowdown in investment growth in commodity exporters since 2011.

 

Growth prospects in these economies have been dampened by a deteriorating outlook for major economies that are important trading partners, as well as sluggish productivity growth and demographic factors. In particular, growth in China has slowed in the face of weak external demand and policy measures aimed at shifting economic activity from manufacturing to services. This has reduced global commodity demand and generated adverse spillovers to commodity-exporting EMDEs (World Bank 2016).


In commodity-exporting EMDEs, private investment during 2010-15 accounted for roughly 78 percent of total investment. Some of these countries unwound fiscal stimulus only slowly in 2008-09 as public investment growth remained positive despite a slowdown during 2010-13. Since 2013, however, public investment growth in commodity exporters has dropped sharply and shrank in 2015.

 

In contrast, private investment growth has slowed more gradually from its post-crisis peak in 2010, a tentative stabilization in 2015 notwithstanding. Post-crisis investment weakness in commodity-exporting EMDEs occurs against a global macroeconomic backdrop that presents such obstacles as stagnant trade and heightened policy uncertainty.


Worsening terms of trade


As a result of the sharp commodity price slide from early-2011 peaks, the terms of trade—the ratio of export prices to those of imported goods and services—of commodity exporters deteriorated by 4 percent since 2011, on average. Oil exporters experienced a 21 percent plunge (Figure F6). These terms-of-trade shocks accounted for 1.5 percentage points of the investment growth slowdown in commodity exporters between 2011 and 2015, and 3.4 percentage points in energy exporters (World Bank 2017).


Rapid credit growth and debt overhang


On average, private credit in commodity exporters has increased by nearly 20 percentage points of GDP from 2000 to 2015. In about half of these economies credit to the non-financial private sector (as a ratio of GDP) grew more than 4 percentage points from 2015Q2 to 2016Q2.

 

This is well above the long-term average yearly increase of 1 percentage point (World Bank 2016). Credit booms since 2010 have been unusually “investment-less” in commodity-exporting EMDEs.1 Historically, when such investment-less credit booms unwind, output contracts more than when booms were accompanied by an investment surge (World Bank 2017).


Heightened uncertainty


Uncertainty has increased in many commodity-exporting EMDEs since the 2008-09 global financial crisis. This is a by-product of geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe, security challenges and conflicts in the Middle East, and acute domestic political tensions in several large commodity-exporting EMDEs. Deteriorated political stability in some commodity-exporting EMDEs may have accounted for 0.7 percentage point of the total slowdown in investment growth in 2011-2015 (World Bank 2017).

 

In addition, policy uncertainty in major advanced economies and in some major EMDEs has further weighed on investment growth in commodity-exporting EMDEs. For example, a 10 percent increase in the VIX volatility index can reduce investment growth in commodity exporting EMDEs by 0.5 percentage point within a year.


Which policies can help reignite investment growth?


Both external and domestic factors—low commodity prices, policy and political uncertainty, and weak growth prospects—are weighing on investment in commodity-exporting EMDEs. In the near-term, some of these headwinds are expected to diminish, but only gradually. Investment growth is likely to remain subdued. However, many commodity-exporting EMDEs have large unmet investment needs.

 

A number require investment in health, education, and infrastructure, and are poorly equipped to keep pace with rapid urbanization and changing demands on the work force. In addition, investment in the nonresource sector is needed to smooth a transition from natural resource-driven growth to more sustainable sources. Finally, a boost to investment, particularly private investment, would help revive slowing productivity growth.

 

Robust policy action, even in countries with limited room to mobilize domestic resources, is needed to accelerate investment growth prospects. Although the specific policy needs depend on country circumstances, a full range of policies are needed to improve investment growth prospects.

 

Counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary stimulus may not be effective given low commodity prices, diminished government revenues, and above-target inflation rates. On the other hand, structural policies could support investment by addressing the factors holding back private investment. These include measures to improve productivity and business climate, as well measures to reduce investor uncertainty.


Macroeconomic policies


Low commodity prices have weakened fiscal positions in commodity exporting EMDEs. Widening fiscal deficits and rapidly rising government debt levels leave only limited space for fiscal stimulus, despite the current low-interest rate environment. In about half of commodity-exporting EMDEs with sovereign wealth funds, assets cover less than one year of government expenditures. Absent fiscal space, shifting expenditures toward growth-enhancing investment or improving revenue collection, particularly in commodity exporters with low revenue-to-GDP ratios, can boost spending on public investment.


Alternatively, authorities can gear policy efforts to developing private funding sources for investment. Many countries still lack adequate frameworks for effective public-private partnerships, which can improve the effectiveness of public investment (Engel, Fischer, and Galetovic 2008). Like fiscal stimulus, monetary policy can boost growth and investment in a cyclical slowdown.

 

However, with inflation already above target (about 3 percent on average), most commodity-exporting EMDEs have limited monetary policy space . Several commodity-exporting EMDEs have elevated external debt. Insofar as a large share of this debt is denominated in foreign currency, it can restrict policy makers’ ability to allow currency depreciation in response to terms-of-trade shocks.


Structural policies


Structural reforms are particularly important for supporting investment in commodity-exporting EMDEs with limited room to deploy fiscal and monetary policies to generate stronger growth. Improving the business climate can both stimulate investment (domestic and foreign) and amplify the crowding-in effects of public investment.

 

It can also offer indirect benefits through higher growth, less informality, and more dynamic job creation (Didier et al. 2015). For instance, lower startup costs are associated with higher profitability of incumbent firms, greater investment in information and communications technology, and more beneficial effects of FDI for domestic investment.


Reforms to reduce trade barriers can encourage FDI and aggregate investment. Governance and financial sector reforms can improve the allocation of resources, including capital, across firms and sectors. Labor and product market reforms that increase firm profitability can encourage investment. Stronger property rights can encourage corporate and real estate investment.


Improved access to power supplies can increase firm investment and productivity. An important additional policy ingredient to strengthen prospects in commodity-exporting EMDEs is a robust fiscal framework for managing commodity price cycles that could turn commodity wealth into a steady flow of income and support long-term macroeconomic sustainability.

 

In addition, promoting innovation and growth in non-extractive sectors, investing in research and development, and facilitating links between various industries can be effective policy options to boost investment growth. Three factors are critical for maximizing the benefits from structural policies: (i) strengthening fundamentals (stable growth and inflation, an open trade policy, transparency and good governance, and financial stability); (ii) enhancing infrastructure (roads, communication, and access to electricity and water); and (iii) human capital (World Bank 2015). Progress in some structural areas has slowed in commodity-exporting EMDEs in recent years.

 

During the six years preceding 2011, policymakers cut the cost of doing business considerably. Since then, however, while improvements have continued in some EMDEs, they have proceeded at a slower pace.3 However, large reform spurts in commodity exporting EMDEs have historically been associated with a higher investment growth of 5.7 percent.


Conclusion


In line with the subdued economic activity, investment growth in commodity-exporting EMDEs has slowed sharply since 2010. Deteriorating terms of trade, rising private sector debt burdens, and growing uncertainty have contributed to this slowdown. Policies to remedy investment weakness in commodity exporting EMDEs could include both cyclical and structural actions.

 

However, commodity-exporting EMDEs have limited room to implement fiscal or monetary stimulus given eroded government revenues due to historically low commodity prices and above target inflation rates. Structural reforms to enhance business environments, encourage economic diversification, and improve governance are therefore necessary to spur stronger investment public and private investment, attract foreign direct investment, and improve longer-term growth prospects.


Adopted from a World Bank Report for 2017 Q1 – Investment weakness in commodity exporting countries – Commodity Markets Outlook

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Inflation spike building further upwards

27th October 2020
Inflation spike

In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.

Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.

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Plans to erase Edgars, Jet trademark from Botswana malls underway

27th October 2020
Edgars Jet trademark

Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.

Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.

Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.

Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.

Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.

According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.

Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.

The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.

“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.

In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA.
Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.

The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.

CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.

TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.

Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.

Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.

According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.

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BOCRA, associates to provide broadband internet in schools

27th October 2020

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.

The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.

Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.

When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.

Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.

The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.

Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.

BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.

“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.

The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.

UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.

“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”

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