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BoB maintains rate at 6 percent

BoB Governor; Linah Mohohlo

The Bank of Botswana (BoB) has maintained the lending rate at 6 percent saying the medium-term outlook for inflation and domestic growth were within its targets.
In 2015 alone the BoB cut the interest rates twice in a bid to spur credit growth.

“The current state of the economy including the inflation forecast suggests that the prevailing monetary policy stance is consistent with maintaining inflation within the Bank's medium-term objective range of 3-6 percent,” the Bank of Botswana said in a statement.

Botswana's consumer inflation quickened to 3.1 percent year-on-year in October from 2.9 percent in September.

Garry Juma an investment analyst with a local brokerage Motswedi Securities has hailed the move by BoB as a good one in that it will not destabilize the financial system.

“It’s not surprising that BoB has maintained the interest rate because the interest rates are at an all-time low. Credit growth was slow and any further reduction would affect banks thereby destabilizing the financial system,” he said

Juma said he expects the economy to pick up because of the economic stimulus package especially the construction sector in the first half of 2016.

Despite interest rates being at a 26 year low of 6.0 percent, annualised credit growth slowed from 12.4 percent in January 2015 to 9.8 percent in April, the lowest in four years. The decline was mostly driven by a slowdown in the growth of credit to firms, which fell from 18.9 percent in January 2015 to 11.8 percent in April.

The Monetary Policy Committee concluded that the medium-term outlook for price stability remains positive, with inflation forecast to be close to the lower bound of the 3 – 6 percent medium-term objective range.

Global output is projected to grow by 3.1 percent in 2015 compared to the estimated 3.4 percent in 2014 and the 3.6 percent forecast for 2016. However, global economic growth performance remains uneven, with challenges relating to economic restructuring in both developed and emerging market economies constraining medium-term prospects.

The country’s GDP growth is estimated at 4.2 percent in the twelve months to June 2015, compared to 6.1 percent in the corresponding period in 2014, thus reflecting the slower expansion of 1.3 percent for the mining sector.

Non-mining output growth was 4.8 percent for the same period. Inflation was 3.1 percent in October 2015, marginally higher than 2.9 percent in September. Low domestic demand pressures and subdued foreign price developments contribute to the positive inflation outlook in the medium term.

“This outlook is subject to downside risks arising from sluggish global economic activity and the resultant weakening commodity prices. The inflation outlook could, however, be adversely affected by any unanticipated large increase in administered prices and government levies as well as international oil and food prices beyond current forecasts,” BoB stated.

The central bank says the current state of the economy and both the domestic and external economic outlook; including the inflation forecast suggest that the prevailing monetary policy stance is consistent with maintaining inflation within the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent.

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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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