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BoB surprise rate could hurt banks

Bank of Botswana Governor, Ms Linah Mohohlo and Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo

The surprise rate cut by the Bank of Botswana on Wednesday is expected to contribute to a weakening profit picture for Botswana’s banks.

Bank of Botswana shocked markets by cutting unexpectedly the bank rate this week, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to reduce the Bank Rate by 1 percentage point to 6.5 percent.

Garry Juma, an Investment Analyst with Motswedi Securities told Weekend Post that  they were all shocked by this 100bps unexpected rate cut. “This is bad news for the banking sector,” Juma said.

The Botswana Banking sector profit growth was already under pressure from the liquidity crisis and the two year moratorium in place which already had banks adopting cautious approaches on their loan books.

“Already, interest margins are under pressure and the further interest cut has worsened the situation for the banks,” Juma added.

He noted that however there is more breathing space for the companies and individuals as they can get more funding.

Thabelo Nemaorani, an Economist with E-consult said this is a triple threat for the banking sector.

“The combination of the 2 year moratorium, the liquidity crisis and the bank rate cut makes it so difficult for the banking sector to make profits,” he said.

Nemaorani thinks that the rate cut is not expected to generate much more than incremental demand for borrowing by consumers.

However he noted that “though theoretically the bank rate cut means cheaper access to credit, in the prevailing times of low liquidity there isn’t much to borrow.”

He thinks any loan growth would be more than offset by pressure on the banks’ closely watched net interest margins.

Moatlhodi Sebabole a research manager with FNB said this is good news for the consumers with existing floating rate loans as they will get a relief as interest payments will reduce in accordance with reference rate.

“The purchasing power of these consumers slightly increases as savings on interest payments can be used for consumption or to meet other household demands,” he said.

He added that the declining savings rates would mean consumers have more propensity to borrow than to save and demand for credit will increase as it is now cheaper to borrow, while demand for deposits will decrease.
“Increased spending by businesses and households will increase inflation,” he asserted.

He also warned that Banks interest margins are expected to reduce, thereby squeezing profitability.

“Lending is going to be under more stringent terms as banks are likely to continue reviewing their credit requirements in an environment where credit growth far outpaced deposits growth, this will result in significant decrease in excess liquidity.”

Analysts observe that banks are likely to become more innovative in raising funds matched funding, structured products and capital market issuances. The ongoing liquidity challenge is expected to result in constrained credit growth.

Meanwhile the MPC said total GDP growth is estimated at 4.8 percent in the twelve months to September 2014, reflecting the 5.5 percent and 4.7 percent expansion in mining and non-mining output, respectively. The Committee noted that modest domestic demand pressures and benign foreign price developments are expected to contribute to the positive inflation outlook in the medium term.

“The inflation outlook is subject to downside risks associated with weak global activity and a possible further decline in commodity prices. This could be adversely affected by any unanticipated larger increase than the current forecast for administered prices, government levies and international food and oil prices,” the MPC stated.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020

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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