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What Matambo left out: tax issues, job creation

Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo pitched an recurrent budget package  this week that focused on economic diversification, promoting economic growth, physical structure development and human capital development, however economic  experts are of the view that the 2015/16 budget had its  ‘hits and misses’.


The budget offered a modest budget surplus of P1.23billion or 0.8 per cent of GDP which will contribute towards rebuilding of the country's net financial assets and provide a cushion to global shocks. The education was the biggest benefactor with a 33% share while the agriculture sector took the smallest share of 3%.


Key issues that the experts anticipated to hear were left out and these included tax issues, employment creation, attracting FDI, issuance of permits to name but just a few.


In an interview with Vijay Kalyanaraman a Partner and Advisory services with Grant Thornton he said the government initiatives as expressed in the budget are excellent the challenge remains as to how to relate the excellent intentions to implementation.


“A roadmap for implementing government’s intentions is critical, what we want to know is what initiatives are there in place to drive implementation” said Kalyanaraman.


He said there is a great deal of challenge on the implementation of the development projects. In his speech Matambo said During NDP 10, the development budget has been underspent by an average of 17.3 percent for the years 2011/2012 through 2013/2014, due to delayed project implementation.


Kalyanaraman added that he would have expected to hear the minister talk about administrative issues regarding approval of licenses. “We expect the one-stop shop in place to work seamlessly and improve on the issuance of permits because it’s really disturbing for an investor to go through a lot of hustles,” he said.


A total of P12.93 billion was proposed for the development budget with the largest share allocated to the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MMEWR) at P3.32 billion or 25.7 percent of the budget.


Tax Director with Deiloitte & Touche Botswana Terry Brick said the budget allocation was equally good considering the largest allocation went to education. “It does not stop there must be jobs for school leavers to go to,” said Brick. The current unemployment rate of 19.8 percent therefore represents underutilization of one of the country’s important resource, namely our human capital.


Brick said an unemployment rate of 19% is very worrying. “I would have expected the Minister to have addressed job creation in greater detail,” he said. In a bid to spur growth and employment, Matambo said that this year’s development budget would mainly be spent on infrastructure projects such as construction of new schools, new power transmission lines and water pipelines.


Investment analyst with a local brokerage Motswedi Securities Garry Juma said the budget missed key issues like the Value Added Tax (VAT) contribution to the total revenue. “Matambo was silent on this matter of which everybody expected to know how much is the VAT contributing to the total revenue,” said Juma.


He added that it was his expectation that he talk about the modalities in place to implement the clusters as well as the budget allocation. Juma said though not much change has been seen in the budget there is need for government to look into the slow implementation of projects as these constraints the growth process. He said the implementation process requires more focus to ensure that resources allocated are utilized efficiently.


The investment analyst said more focus should be channeled towards the agriculture sector given its importance in the economic diversification.


Research Manager with First National Bank (FNB) Moathlodi Sebabole said the budget puts Botswana in a twin surplus of: current account surplus and fiscal budget surplus. “This is a good as an insurance policy for the country and will ensure we continue to have financial stability,” he said.


However, he said Matambo did not address how government intends to maximize on tax revenues or improving efficiencies on custom collections.


In addition Sebabole highlighted that Matambo failed to reveal the exact role that private sector will play in economic diversification and employment creation be it through private-public-partnership (PPP) or contracting.


Sebabole said though Matambo acknowledged as shortfalls poverty levels, income inequalities and unemployment rates he did not do the expected that is to zoom in terms of how we will reduce these adversities and the rates that we will be comfortable to operate with at country level.


“Minister mentioned the government bond BW003 which is maturing this year, but did not indicate whether, given the surplus, they will be re-issuing or activities they will undertake to stimulate the capital markets further,” said Sebabole.


Furthermore, a local tax expert said he was surprised that the minister did not mention any proposed Tax changes against what the tax practitioners expected.


“We were expecting to hear an update on the proposed exemption on first time home owners which the minister announced in the last year’s budget. The proposal was to provide an exemption to citizens when they purchase their homes for the first time,” he said.


Currently citizens do not enjoy the 100% Transfer duty exemption but only enjoy an exemption on the first 200 000 with the rest being chargeable to transfer duty at 5%.


He added that contrary to expectations the minister never mentioned anything regarding the Income tax bill.  An IMF paper recommended that governments must do away with IFSC preferential tax rates of 15% it doesn’t really attract investment. Put in place thin capitalization rules for all tax payers not just mining entities and take away 15% tax rate from manufacturing.


“These are possible changes we expect to through the Income Tax Bill yet to be published,” he added.


Matambo said the economy will slow down in 2015 as compared to previous years though the domestic outlook remains positive.

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Debswana-Botswana Oil P8 billion fuel partnership to create 100 jobs

18th May 2022
Head-of-Stakeholder-Relations

The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.

In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.

“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.

“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”

Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.

“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.

“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.

“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”

Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.

“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.

While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.

“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.

Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.

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VAT in Africa Guide 2022 – Africa re-emerging

18th May 2022

PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.

Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.

Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS 

“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”

Broadening the tax base and digital economy

In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.

South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.

ESG and carbon tax 

Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.

In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.

Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.

With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”

The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.

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Economists project lower economic growth for Botswana

18th May 2022
CBD

Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.

Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.

Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.

According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.

The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.

She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.

The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.

Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.

In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.

According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.

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