De Beers has started the year strongly after its biggest diamond sale in over a year and its largest January sight in over two years.
The world’s biggest diamond producer by value sold $720 million in its first sale of the year, a 70% increase from the last sale in December. The January figures are also 32% higher than the previous corresponding period when it sold $545 million. The surge in the value of diamonds sold in the first circle of the year was helped in part by a longer period between the final sight of 2016 and the first sight of the year.
Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers, said: “We saw good demand across the majority of our assortment during the first sales cycle of the year, as the industry entered the period when rough diamond demand is traditionally strongest. The longer period between the final Sight of 2016 and the first Sight of 2017 also contributed to heightened demand during the cycle.
The diamond industry is seasonal, with the holiday period from thanksgiving in November through the Lunar New Year in Asia in January or early February the busiest period for jewellery sales. January is also a seasonally busy month for the rough sector as traders and manufacturers return to the market after working down their inventories over the festive selling period. Rough diamond prices rebounded by 12 percent in 2016, a marked contrast to the slump experienced in 2015 prices fell by 18%.
De Beers says there is a hint of increased demand for the smaller diamonds, a sign that the industry is adjusting to India’s post demonetization exercise which had hurt demand for smaller stones. The decision was taken in November by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to remove large denominations-the 500-rupee and 1000 rupee banknotes- as part of the government’s efforts to curtail money laundering and crackdown on tax evasion as well as counterfeit money. The process of demonetization had affected small manufacturers as it sapped their liquidity.
“While the reopening of some diamond polishing operations in India saw something of an increase in demand for smaller, lower quality rough diamonds, we maintain a cautious outlook for these categories as the Indian industry continues to adjust to the post-demonetisation environment.”
De Beers has since announced they intend to pilot a fixed-price forward contract, which gives Auction Sales customers an opportunity to guarantee access to future supply, knowing ahead of time what they are expected to pay when the contract reaches maturity. The program will first be implemented on 16 February 2017, for the Grainers, otherwise known as Smalls- and Near-Gem categories of rough diamonds. The fixed-price contracts serve as an effective supply sourcing option for small and medium sized enterprises which are seeking access to regular rough diamond supply at a predictable price
The mining giant holds ten Global Sightholder Sales and Auction Sales every year in Gaborone and the sights or auction sales are restricted to the top 85 customers who buy the diamond packages at a price determined by De Beers. In 2016, the diamond behemoth sold as much as $4.9 billion worth of diamonds in its ten Sightholder sales.
De Beers which is majority owned by Anglo American Plc and the Botswana government which holds 15 percent, is also the other half of Debswana, a joint venture with the government. Debswana operates four diamond mines in the country (Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Jwaneng). Jwaneng mine is largest and most valuable mine in the world.
Diamonds are the mainstay of Botswana’s economy since they were discovered shortly after the country gained independence. The partnership between the government and De Beers is one of the longest known public-private partnerships, stretching to 50 years. The country is yet to diversify its economy from resources based despite imminent threats in the diamond industry that include competition from synthetic diamonds, stagnated growth in leading economies and the slowdown in China that affected several commodity prices.
According to Statistics Botswana, the estimated GDP at current prices for the third quarter of 2016 was P42.7 billion compared to a revised level of P40.9 billion registered in the second quarter of 2016. The significant growth in the real Mining value added of 13.3 percent was attributed to the increase of the diamond industry value added by 9.3 percent in the third quarter of 2016 compared to a decline of 33.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
In the quarter under review, diamond production increased by 9.3 percent due to positive recovery in the global markets, particularly in the major markets for diamonds. In 2016, diamond prices have remained relatively stable and therefore the diamond industry has not been significantly impacted by the commodity price downturn. The data collection agency says the revenue generated from diamond industry sales have been higher in 2016.
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”