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Why the economic outlook is gloomy

The precipitous drop in commodity prices will most likely cause a budget deficit, this is according to Econsult, a local consultancy firm. In their quarterly economic review, they point to struggling emerging markets, particularly China, Brazil and Russia, which are experiencing sluggish economic growth as the cause of the problems. The negative impacts will be largely felt by resource based economies such as Botswana, which has failed to diversify its diamond led economy.


The weak demand for diamonds has resulted in DeBeers reducing prices as much as 10% to stimulate demand, which proved to be a futile move as manufacturers have already enough in their inventories. The slump in diamond sales is expected to persist until 2016, putting pressure on government revenues due to lowered mineral exports.


“Lower exports and government mineral revenues will most likely lead to balance of payments and fiscal deficits in the second half of the year, perhaps extending into 2016,” read part of the review, before adding that “As a result, our revised forecast for real GDP growth for 2015 is now only 1%, lower than the revised projection of 2.6% released by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in its Budget Strategy Paper in September.”


Despite the slump in diamond sales, the economy has noted growth in non-mining private sectors which impressed at a robust growth rate of 5%. The pula remained strong compared to its neighbouring countries which have seen their currencies tumbling on the face of falling commodity prices. This has provided relief as it put aside any fears of immediate crisis.


The Econsult review warns that the fall in commodity prices is not the only problem policymakers in Botswana should be concerned with. Instead they point to a series of maladies which continue to cast a dark shadow on the economic prospects of the country.

These include, the water and electricity crisis, lack of transparency in immigration, slow progress in implementing promised reforms to improve business climate, slow progress in establishing a framework for public private partnerships and no implementation of privatisation commitments. “All of these add up to an environment of increasing economic uncertainty, which is a deterrent to investment both local and foreign, and job creation,” warned the consultancy firm.


The Econsult quarterly economic report has indicated that the government’s effort to stimulate the economy through the Economic Stimulus Package would have a two pronged outcome. In the short term it will boost economic activity and some job creation, particularly in the construction sector. In the long term “it seems unlikely that the stimulus package will address underlying constraints or help move the economy onto a higher long-term growth path. The real causes of slowing growth are not a lack of government spending, but a lack of competitiveness,” noted Econsult.


The consultancy firm further noted that the stimulus package should be met with caution as it could make things worse. They pointed out that the package will move the budget to larger deficits, therefore government spending should be efficient and accompanied by proper project management that will ensure money is invested in projects that could justify the financial investment through high returns.


“A rush to implement projects under the stimulus package is unlikely to see these fundamental issues addressed. It is essential that a focus on additional short-term spending does not distract attention from the need for fundamental structural reforms that will addresses competitiveness and productivity issues, which are essential for sustainable long-term growth and job creation,” advised Econsult.


In another report that corroborates Econsult’s dim view on Botswana’s growth prospects, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has painted a gloomy picture of weaker growth in Sub Saharan countries, including Botswana.  Through their latest Regional Economic Outlook, titled Dealing with the Gathering Clouds, the IMF said growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has weakened markedly, and is now expected at 3.75 percent this year and 4.25 percent in 2016, from 5 percent in 2014.


“Of the three factors that have underpinned the region’s solid performance of the last decade or so—a much improved business and macroeconomic environment, high commodity prices, and highly accommodative global financial conditions — the latter two have become far less supportive. As a result, while activity remains more solid than in many other developing and emerging regions of the world, the strong growth momentum evident in the region in recent years has dissipated,” read part of the report.


The report goes on to note considerable variations across the region, with the region’s low-income countries experiencing growth due to ongoing infrastructure investment and solid private consumption. In contrast, the hardest hit has been on the region’s eight oil exporters — which together account for about half of the region’s GDP and include the largest producers, Nigeria and Angola — as falling export incomes and resulting sharp fiscal adjustments is taking their toll on activity.


The IMF warns that the situation could get worse before it gets better therefore a need for some fiscal and monetary policy adjustments. On the fiscal policy side, some countries might find it difficult to manoeuvre as they try to stimulate economy due to lack of access to cheaper capital. On the monetary policy front, IMF suggests that countries whose currency is not pegged should allow for the exchange rate depreciation to absorb the shock caused by decline in trade.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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