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Greece spells out terms for debt crisis ‘breakthrough’

Leaders of Greece's creditors – the ECB, IMF, European Commission and European Council – met to discuss strategy before Monday's summit

Greece's economy minister has spelled out the terms of new proposals to end deadlock on its debt crisis, amid hopes a deal can now be struck this week.

It includes new taxes on businesses and the wealthy, Giorgios Stathakis told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

Eurozone finance ministers have welcomed the plan, saying there could be a deal "within days".

Greece will default if it does not repay a €1.6bn (£1.1bn) IMF loan by the end of the month.

If that happens, it risks crashing out of the single currency and possibly the EU.

Mr Stathakis told the BBC's Robert Peston he was confident Greece's new proposals to balance the government's books had broken the deadlock with its creditors.

He said the proposals also included an increase in the VAT rate for some selected items.

Greece's economy minister Giorgios Stathakis told me that his Syriza government, led by Alexis Tsipras, had avoided crossing its red lines with the new proposals.

So, he said, there would be no further reductions in pensions or public-sector wages. And there would be no increase in VAT on electricity.

He also said that the government had agreed with the IMF and eurozone governments that the targeted budget surplus would be 1% of GDP or national income this year, 2% next year and 3% the year after.

There will be no agreement with creditors to cut Greece's massive burden of debt, despite Syriza's earlier insistence on this. But Mr Stathakis told me he expects eurozone government heads to issue a communique later saying that debt relief will be on the agenda for negotiation in coming months.

An emergency Eurogroup summit in Brussels is still due to go ahead later on Monday.

Talks have been in deadlock for five months. The European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are unwilling to unlock the final €7.2bn tranche of bailout funds until Greece agrees to economic reforms.

Separately, the European Central Bank (ECB) again increased its emergency funding for Greek banks after anxious savers withdrew more than €4bn in recent days.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who has ruled out pension cuts, higher power rates, and an excessive budget surplus, said he hoped Greece would "return to growth within the eurozone".

He met the heads of Greece's three international creditors in Brussels, ahead of his talks with the leaders of 18 other eurozone nations.

'Broad and comprehensive'

But eurozone finance ministers said they were not given enough time to study them for a proper assessment, amid confusion over different versions of the Greek proposals submitted.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Dijsselbloem described the proposals as "broad and comprehensive", but said work was needed to check they added up "in fiscal terms".

Earlier, Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters he had not seen anything new from Greece so far and "without anything new, there is nothing for the ministers to prepare for their leaders". The Irish and Finnish finance ministers echoed the sentiment.

News of a possible breakthrough gave a boost to stock markets, with Greece's main stock exchange jumping 9% by the end of trading on Monday.

The deadline for Greece to pay back a slice of its loan is 30 June, but a last-minute deal would make it difficult to arrange the logistics of transferring the money.

A separate European Council summit is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, and its agenda is packed.

 

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Government sitting on 4 400 vacant posts

14th September 2020
(DPSM) Director Goitseone Naledi Mosalakatane

Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.

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FNBB projects deeper 50 basis point cut for Q4 2020

14th September 2020
Steven Bogatsu

Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.

The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter.  According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.

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Food suppliers give Gov’t headache – report

14th September 2020
Food suppliers give Gov’t headache

An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.

There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.

The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.

Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.

In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.

“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.

In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.

“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”

Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.

In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.

In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.

This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.

In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.

Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.

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