P150 million for BCL ex-employees
There is a flicker of hope for the 6000 ex-miners who were recently axed from BCL following government’s decision to put the mine on provisional liquidation – finally the process of payments of their benefits has begun.
Appointed Liquidator Nigel Dixon Warren has confirmed and started the processing of paying the benefits from his jurisdiction which includes mainly terminal benefits, leave pays and bonuses. The miners’ minds have been settled, amid all the struggle of accepting the reality of job loss and the fear of pocketing next to nothing in the pension payout as BCL Staff Pension Fund (BCLSPF) and its asset manager AON announced the relatively good news.
Speaking this week Monday (December 19) in Selibe Phikwe Town Hall, Mr John Gaborutwe, Chairman of the BCL SPF told thousands of gathered former BCL employees that their asset manager, AON Botswana has began processes to roll out payment for their pension benefits, adding that however because of the large volume of payments to roll and issue out, the undertaking will take time.
According to Gaborutwe the Fund which was established 5 years ago has over 4300 members who worked at the Phikwe mine.”This is the money from our members who contributed five percent of their monthly salaries to preserve with us, together with the ten percent of their salaries contributed by the employer which was BCL Limited,” explained Gaborutwe.
When quizzed about whether the cash strapped and liquidated BCL has paid all of the ten percent as per employer- employee contracts, the Fund Chairman confirmed the company has indeed transacted their contribution to the Staff fund. Confirming that BCL held their end of the deal, AON Botswana Pension Consultancy Deputy Director, Peter Hikhwa told the Fund members that BCL has been paying the 10 percent every month, adding that in the cases of delay the oversight body NBFIRA was roped in to make sure the law and agreement was observed.
“According to NBFIRA regulations the employer pays out their contribution to the Pension Fund at least not beyond the 21st of the following month, and BCL has been meeting that deadline,” he said .Hikhwa explained that the recent payment was paid by the liquidator following the October 2016 final payments which came just before workers’ contracts were terminated on the 31st of the same month.
According to Hikhwa, pension payments will be made in two phases, the first encompassing members over 50 years and those that have reached the 60 years retirement age. He explained that the group will receive a third of their pension tax free and will have the option of a complete 100 percent payout. Hikhwa further said that the threshold houses one percent of 60 year olds, nine percent of 50-55 years old and 11 percent in the 55-59 age group making it to account for 21 percent of the total membership.
Hikhwa further unpacked that the other threshold comprises members under the age of 50 years who will receive one third of their pension, 33.3 percent of that taxed, adding that according to the contract and pension agreements two thirds of the under 50s will only be paid once they reach retirement age being from 50-60 of which he noted would have generated interest. “In a case of the unfortunate event of death, your next of kin as you provided to us, as well as your family will be paid the benefits in your absence,” he confirmed to the young pensioners.
The representative from the Fund Manager also highlighted that cumbersome processes for the liquidation process which includes providing information about retained BCL employees before the Pension Fund roll out processes can begin are still being carried out. “Once the liquidator clears with us which employees he retained, we will now engage Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to clear with them.” He added that the process is expected to run until February.
According to Hikhwa new accounts will be created specifically for the pension payment. “We are in talks with a bank so that we create fresh accounts which will be active for 3 years, the account will operate like any other current account and will incur bank charges and tariffs like any other bank account,” he explained. The AON Pension Consultant revealed that the fresh account creation is necessary to fast track payment under a uniform integrated system, adding that once the money is paid beneficiaries can transfer the money to any other account they have and juggle with their hard earned cash as they deem fit like money in any other account. Furthermore Hikhwa told the gatherers that members can also transfer their remaining pension to other funds in an event they get new employment elsewhere or where ever they deem fit and qualify so.
Hikhwa concluded by observing that members will be notified once the processes with the liquidator, BURS and the contracted Bank are concluded. When Weekend Post quizzed him about the Bank which they will engage, the AON officer noted that the information can not be disclosed as the talks are not complete yet. “Once we seal the talks with the bank, the pension recipients will receive information of their pension standing, the one third and remaining two thirds thus the total pension they have gathered and how it was calculated as per the agreement,’’ he said.
He said that the ex miners should expect the money to be credited into their new accounts at least by March next year. Hikhwa revealed that they will be using a payment policy similar to that of retrenchment. BCL SPF Chairman, Gaborutwe told Weekend Post that the Fund was established in June 2011 and has over 4 300 members, adding that according to the audited report released in March 31st 2016 the fund was seating at P227 million. “We are a new fund, only 5 years old and we couldn’t have gathered much, but we were still developing ways to expand our portfolio and generate more interest for our members unfortunately the mine met its demise before we could achieve all that.”
Gaborutwe further noted that however, from March to date they expect the fund to have expanded to over P250 million from interest, “But the approximation figures we are receiving from our Fund Manager AON Botswana, which has been our pension management firm from the beginning, indicate we will pay out over P150 million, meaning about 100 million will remain for more interest generation and expansion,’’ he concluded.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month. Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”