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Economic growth slows again

The World Bank has said economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to slow again in 2016, to 2.5 percent, down from an estimated 3.0 percent in 2015, citing persistently low commodity prices, weak global trade, diminishing capital inflows and slow growth in advanced economies.

In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the bank said that commodity exporters and developing economies have struggled to adapt to low oil and other commodity prices.

According to the Bank, oil exporters are not likely to experience any significant pickup in consumption growth, while lower inflation in oil importers should support consumer spending.

Subsequently, growth in these economies will advance at a meager 0.4 percent in 2016, a downward revision of 1.2 percentage points from the bank’s outlook in January.

“Economic growth remains the most important driver of poverty reduction, and that’s why we’re very concerned that growth is slowing sharply in commodity-exporting developing countries due to depressed commodity prices,” World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.

He added that it is critical for countries to pursue policies that will boost economic growth and improve the lives of those living in extreme poverty.

On a positive tone, the bank noted that commodity importing emerging markets and developing economies have been more resilient than the exporters. These economies are set to expand at 5.8 percent in 2016, down modestly from an earlier forecast of 5.9 percent in 2015.

The report states that, low commodity prices, tightening global financial conditions and drought in parts of the region are holding back economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa this year. The slowdown is particularly pronounced among oil exporters (Nigeria, Angola), but has also weighed on non-energy mineral exporters (Botswana, South Africa, Zambia).

Several countries, especially in Southern Africa, are facing severe El Nino related conditions that are adversely impacting agricultural production and pushing up consumer prices.

WB expects activity to remain weak in the region’s three largest economies in 2016. Nigeria is forecast to expand at a 0.8 percent pace, a 3.8 percentage point downward revision from January’s outlook, as foreign exchange restrictions, fuel shortages, and low oil output weigh on economic activity, compounding the effect of low oil prices.

Botswana is seen slowing to 3.7 percent pace whilst South Africa is seen slowing to a 0.6 percent pace, as low business confidence and political tensions slow investment growth and as high unemployment and tight monetary policy limit private consumption. Angola is projected to ease to a 0.9 percent rate, due to low oil prices, a weak investment climate, and rising inflation.

Growth is expected to pick up in Ghana (5.2 percent) thanks to improved investor sentiment, new oilfields, and more reliable electrical power. Cote d’Ivoire (8.5 percent) and Kenya (5.9 percent) are expected to continue to expand at a robust pace, boosted by ongoing investment and agricultural production. Output in Zambia is expected to remain subdued (3.4 percent) as a result of lower copper prices and power shortages.

The World Bank has cautioned that a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China could further weaken activity in commodity exporters.

“A further oil price decline could strain the fiscal and current account balances of oil producers and force more public spending cuts. Disappointing Euro Area activity could depress exports and reduce investment flows,” the report stated.

The bank highlighted that the BRICS economies will have varied growth patterns. While China is expected to grow at 6.7 percent this year, Russia and Brazil will remain in deeper recession. India will hold steady at 7.6 percent and South Africa will grow at 0.6 percent this year, 0.8 of a percentage point more slowly than the January forecast.

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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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