One of Botswana’s foremost economists, Dr. Keith Jeffries has said that the slipping of South Africa into third place in the rank of Africa’s most sizeable economies will not have any effect on Botswana. Dr. Jeffries says what happened is simply just a measurement issue, where the rand has depreciated significantly against the dollar hence shrinking the size of the South African economy in dollar terms. “But some sectors of that economy have shown growth,” he emphasized.
Asked if there will be implications for Botswana, Dr Jeffries simply responded; “Not really.” This reporter asked if SACU revenues will shrink given that South Africa is the largest economy and the biggest contributor to the customs union and if the appreciation of the Dollar against the Rand pointed to a bounce back by the world’s major economies, still Dr. Jeffries responded in the negative. He said the customs union was Rand based, and that the depreciation of the Rand against the Dollar did not signal a bounce back by major economies. He further pointed out that a number of factors were responsible for the depreciation, highlighting that the Rand has been on the decline for some time.
South Africa lost the top spot in early 2014 after Nigeria rebased its gross domestic product (GDP) data. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in mid-April provides a shocking GDP statistics for South Africa, suggesting that the South African economy would grow by a mere 0.6% this year, but also that the country is now only the third largest economy on the continent behind Nigeria and Egypt. ï»¿
According to the IMF, South Africa recorded a decline in the US dollar value of its economy during 2012-15 because of slowing real growth, in local currency terms, as well as depreciation in the value of the rand. The South African currency weakened from an average of R8.20/$ during 2012 to an average of R12.74/$ in 2015, a depreciation of more than 50%. Consequently, the nominal US dollar value of South Africa’s GDP declined by an average of almost 7% per annum over the past four years.
This, the IMF notes, compares to Egypt’s nominal US dollar GDP expansion which averaged of 7.5% per annum during 2012-15. The Egyptian pound’s depreciation during the period was at a much slower pace when compared to that of the rand.
The multilateral organization however admits that South Africa remains the continent’s most developed economy, and has a more diversified economic base than the Egyptian economy. The IMF warned; “However, its fall from first and now second place amongst the continent’s giants is of great concern, especially as this development is largely attributed to weakness in the rand that, in turn, has largely been as a result of domestic issues.”
The IMF has projected that global growth in 2016 will be a modest 3.2 percent, broadly in line with last year, and a 0.2 percentage point downward revision relative to the January 2016 WEO Update. The recovery is projected to strengthen in 2017 and beyond, driven primarily by emerging market and developing economies, as conditions in stressed economies start gradually to normalize. But uncertainty has increased, and risks of weaker growth scenarios are becoming more tangible. The fragile conjuncture increases the urgency of a broad-based policy response to raise growth and manage vulnerabilities.
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”