The Governor of the Bank of Botswana, Linah Mohohlo
The Governor of the Bank of Botswana, Linah Mohohlo has said the banks were solid and under control, this follows misinformed reports that have been circulating suggesting that there is a liquidity crisis and bank customers face a credit crunch. “The banking sector in Botswana is sound and profitable; a tightening of the bank liquidity is what is evident,” Mohohlo said.
The Governor noted that though the banks are sound, profitability has declined as expenses increased faster than income however the situation varies from bank to bank.
Describing the prevailing liquidity situation with the banking sector Mohohlo said the banking sector has been faced with a situation of excess liquidity which saw banks dishing out loans at the same time charging higher interest rates on credit. Be that as it may, the reserve bank had been in communication with the banks that measures could be put in place to absorb the excess liquidity at any given point hence they should manage their risks.
A warning that most banks did not take heed off, hence they are grappling with tight liquidity problems. As result this has resulted in a period of rapid credit growth by commercial banks, compared to slower increase in deposits thus resulting in a sharp increase in the intermediation ratio, which is simply a ratio of bank loans to deposits.
“They are crying now because they did not manage their risk properly. I believe risk is something they are beginning to learn now. Banks were not taken by surprise it’s something that we have been warning them about to avoid a Laissez-faire approach in their operations,” Mohohlo said. The Governor underscored the need for banks to impart skills to their staff.
“You can’t afford to be reckless banks should be mindful of how they remunerate their depositors and how they charge their credit,” Mohohlo said.
In the past five years, excess liquidity in the banking system as represented by outstanding BoBCs has declined from P17, 7 billion as at end 2010 to P4.6 billion in February 2015.
“The main cause was the BoB phased reduction of the excess money that is continuously mopped by way of auctioning of BoBCs. The cap for this excess money currently is P5 Billion and it was put in place to encourage productive lending by banks as well as to moderate the cost of mopping up excess liquidity,” Mohohlo said.
She added that the recent economic and market developments have had no adverse impact on levels of capital in banking industry, with the aggregate capital adequacy ratio at 19 percent as at January 2015 and above the prudential limit of 15 percent.
In the 12 month period to January 2015, the aggregate industry balance sheet grew healthily by 11 percent, with deposits growing by 7 percent and credit growing by 13 percent.
The ratio increased from 53.1 percent at the end of 2010 to 87.6 percent in the period of four years to the need of 2014. Mohohlo said as such funds previously held in BoBCs have been diverted to loans by banks and more than doubled growing by 104.3 percent from P22.1 billion in December 2010 to P45.2 billion in January 2015.
During the same period deposits increased at a slower pace of 31.7 percent from P40.4 billion to P53.2 billion in the same year period. “The slower growth in deposits is possibly due to sluggish growth in incomes, inadequate financial inclusion, more streamlined procedures for government funding of parastatals and very low interest rates paid by banks on deposits,” she explained.
She highlighted that comparing with rest of Africa banks in Botswana are more profitable.
Mohohlo said the excess liquidity has been effectively absorbed by the economy to benefit businesses and households.
As funds available for lending income exhausted, it is inevitable that credit expansion would slow down. However credit has continued to grow to robust pace as evidenced by January 2015 annual growth rate of 13 percent, which is higher than nominal economic growth.
She said the fuss over the tightened lending criteria at banks is normal saying in situation of tighter liquidity banks tend to tighten lending criteria, while taking measures to boost deposits. “Even then current developments do not suggest that new lending will cease completely as growth in deposits remains positive,” said the Governor.
Mohohlo said it is imperative that banks undertake measures to attract deposits and focus on productive use of more limited funds available for lending.
“More emphasis on deposit mobilization and improved financial inclusion would be steps in the right direction towards a more mature banking sector,” she said.
The Governor said in situations like this of tight liquidity there are more complementary measure that there BoB stands ready to undertake in support of banks as they review their operations in an environment of reduced liquidity. These include reduction of the Primary Reserve Requirement and enhanced access to BoB lending facilities.
The BoB has since reduced the Primary Reserve Requirement from the current 10 percent to 5 percent with effect from April 1, 2015. This will release a total of P2.3 billion to augment the banks loanable funds. Mohohlo underscored that the reduction of Primary Reserve Requirement should not be mistaken as a bailout to the banks rather it’s just a measure adopted in moments of reduced liquidity.
Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a 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.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.
Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.
CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.
CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.
“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.
“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”
Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities. We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.”
CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour. Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.