Botswana’s imports and exports fell in August, hobbled by the low value of diamonds, data from Statistics Botswana has revealed.
The Monthly Trade Digest released by Statistics Botswana this week, indicates that August imports decreased by 7.4 percent (P382.8 million) from the July 2015 value of P5, 143.2 million, while exports were valued at P3, 026.5 million, a decrease of 34.4 percent (P1, 585.8 million) from the July 2015 value of P4, 612.3 million.
“The decrease in August 2015 total imports as compared to July 2015 has been attributed to low value of diamonds imports. The decrease in exports is largely due to rough diamonds from the aggregation process not being exported on a monthly basis” SB stated.
Comparing the August 2015 import figures to August 2014 import value shows a decrease of 21.7 percent (P1, 323.1 million), from P6, 083.4 million recorded during August 2014 to P4, 760.4 million recorded during the reference month. Total exports show a fall of 61.9 percent (P4, 926.9 million) from the August 2014 value of P7, 953.4 million to P3, 026.5 million in August 2015.
Export values are high during the months when rough diamonds from the aggregation process are exported and are low when there is no significant exportation from the aggregation process.
The monthly digest shows that the composition of imports by principal commodities for August Fuel contributed the most to total imports (P4, 760.4 million), having contributed 20.0 percent (P953.8 million), followed by Machinery &Electrical Equipment with 17.2 percent (P816.6 million) and Food, Beverages & Tobacco with 13.0 percent(P620.6 million). Diamonds, Chemicals & Rubber Products and Vehicles & Transport Equipment contributed12.7 percent (P603.9 million), 11.2 percent (P534.4 million) and 9.1 percent (P431.1 million) respectively, to total imports during the month under review.
Botswana‘s main trading partners are South Africa, Namibia, European Union, United Kingdom, Asia, China, Japan, Israel and Belgium.
According to the digest the bulk of Botswana’s imports 70.8 percent (P3, 372.2 million) came from South Africa the European Union (EU) was the second major source of imports supplying imports valued at P513.5 million, translating to 10.8 percent of total imports during August 2015. Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom contributed 6.8 percent (P325.6 million), 1.5 percent (P72.6 million) and 1.1 percent (P51.8 million) respectively to total imports during the same period.
Asia as a block, supplied imports valued at P277.9 million, representing 5.8 percent of total imports. India and China contributed 1.4 percent each, to total imports during August 2015, at values of P68.5 million and P65.6million respectively. Canada supplied 5.3 percent (P250.2 million) of total imports during the month under review. Zambia and Mozambique provided 2.1 percent (P99.0 million) and 1.6 percent (P74.3 million) respectively to total imports during August 2015.
Total exports for August 2015 were valued at P3, 026.5 million, with 33.1 percent (P1, 002.6 million) destined to SADC. South Africa and Namibia received 18.9 percent (P570.9 million) and 10.4 percent (P314.1 million) respectively, of total exports during the month under review. Exports destined to Asia were valued at P837.6 million, representing 27.7 percent of total exports during August2015. Israel received most of the exports destined to Asia at the value of P240.6 million, which is 7.9 percent of total exports.
A trade deficit of P1, 733.8 million was recorded in August 2015.
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”