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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Botswana ranks most attractive for investment in mining
The Canadian research entity, Fraser Institute has ranked Botswana as the most attractive country for investment in mining in Africa.
In a new survey the entity assessed mineral endowments and mining related policies for 62 mining jurisdictions including Botswana.
The entity noted that in addition to mineral potential for mining jurisdictions, policy factors examined during the survey include uncertainty concerning the administration of current regulations, environmental regulations, regulatory duplication, the legal system & taxation regime, uncertainty concerning protected areas, disputed land claims, infrastructure, socio-economic & community development conditions, trade barriers, political stability, labor regulations, quality of the geological database, security, as well as labor & skills availability.
According to the survey Botswana is the highest ranked jurisdiction in Africa and the second-highest in the world for investment in mining, as a result of its favorable mining policy when compared to other jurisdictions. The survey report noted that Botswana increased its score in policy perception index and added that the score reflects decreased concerns over uncertainty concerning protected areas infrastructure, political stability, labor regulations & employment agreements. “Botswana is also the most attractive jurisdiction in Africa and top 10 in the world when considering policy and mineral potential. With the exception of Botswana, policy scores decreased in all African jurisdictions featured in the survey report.
The survey shows that Morocco is the second most attractive jurisdiction in Africa both for investment and when only policies are considered. However, Morocco’s policy perception index score decreased by almost 18 points and globally the country ranks 17th out of 62 mining jurisdictions this year, dropping out of the top 10 jurisdictions after ranking 2nd out of 84 jurisdictions in 2021 in terms of policy. The survey report noted that investors recently expressed increased concerns over the uncertainty of administration and enforcement of existing regulations, labor regulations & employment agreements, uncertainty concerning disputed land claims, socio economic agreements, community development conditions and trade barriers in the country.
The top jurisdiction in the world for investment in mining is Nevada, which moved up from 3rd place in 2021. At 100, Nevada has the highest policy perception index score this year, displacing the Republic of Ireland as the most attractive jurisdiction in terms of policy. Botswana ranked 31st last year, climbed 29 spots and now ranks 2nd. South Australia ranks 3rd, entering the top 10 jurisdictions in terms of policy after ranking 16th in 2021. Along with Nevada, Botswana, and South Australia, the top 10 ranked jurisdictions based on policy perception index scores are Utah, Newfoundland & Labrador, Alberta, Arizona, New Brunswick, Colorado, and Western Australia. “Nevada ranked first this year with the highest PPI score of 100. Botswana took the second spot held by Morocco. The top 10 ranked jurisdictions are Nevada, Botswana, South Australia, Utah, Newfoundland & Labrador, Alberta, Arizona, New Brunswick, Colorado, and Western Australia. The United States is the region with the greatest number of jurisdictions (4) in the top 10 followed by Canada (3), Australia (2), and Africa (1).”
In the survey report Fraser Institute noted that this year, Angola, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, South Sudan, and Zambia received enough responses to be included in the report. Eight African jurisdictions are ranked in the global bottom 10. Out of 62 mining jurisdictions, Zimbabwe ranks (62nd), Mozambique (61st), South Sudan (60th), Angola (59th), Zambia (58th), South Africa (57th), Democratic Republic of Congo (55th), and Tanzania (53rd). Zimbabwe has consistently ranked amongst the bottom 10 and has held that position for the previous nine years, according to the institute.
The institute noted that considering both policy and mineral potential Zimbabwe ranks the least attractive jurisdiction in the world for investment. “This year, Mozambique, South Sudan, Angola, and Zambia joined Zimbabwe as among the least attractive jurisdictions. Also in the bottom 10 are South Africa, China, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania. Zimbabwe, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa were all in the bottom 10 jurisdictions last year. The 10 least attractive jurisdictions for investment based on policy perception index rankings are; (starting with the worst) Zimbabwe, Guinea (Conakry), Mozambique, China, Angola, Papua New Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nunavut, Mongolia, and South Africa.”
The Fraser Institute on annual basis conducts an annual survey of mining and exploration companies to assess how mineral endowments and public policy factors affect exploration investment.
Over half of the respondents who participated in the recent survey (57 percent) are either the company President or vice-president, and 25 percent are either managers or senior managers. The companies that participated in the survey reported exploration spending of US$1.9 billion in 2022, according to the institute. The institute indicated that as part of the survey, questionnaires were sent to managers and executives around the world in companies involved in mining exploration, development, and other related activities, to assess their perceptions about various public policies that might affect mining investment.
The institute noted that the purpose of the survey is to create a report card that governments can use to improve their mining-related public policy in order to attract investment in their mining sector to better their economic productivity and employment.
The institute noted that while geologic and economic evaluations are always requirements for exploration, in today’s globally competitive economy where mining companies may be examining properties located on different continents, a region’s policy climate has taken on increased importance in attracting and winning investment. “The Policy Perception Index or PPI provides a comprehensive assessment of the attractiveness of mining policies in a jurisdiction, and can serve as a report card to governments on how attractive their policies are from the point of view of an exploration manager.”
Inflation drops to 7.9 percent in April
Botswana’s inflation rate dropped to 7.9 percent in April 2023, a 2.0 percentage drop 9.9 percent in March 2023, Statistics Botswana’s consumer price index reported on Monday.
The main contributors to the annual inflation rate in April 2023 were Transport (2.7 percent), Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (2.2 percent), and Miscellaneous Goods & Services (0.9 percent).
The inflation rates for regions between March 2023 and April 2023 indicated a decline of 2.3 percentage points for Cities & Towns’, from 9.9 percent in March to 7.6 percent in April.
The Urban Villages’ inflation rate registered a drop of 1.8 percentage points, from 9.7 percent in March to 7.9 percent in April, whereas the Rural Villages’ inflation rate was 8.6 percent in April 2023, recording a decrease of 1.8 percentage points from the March rate of 10.4 percent.
The national Consumer Price Index realised a rise of 1.1 percent, from 128.2 in March 2023 to 129.7 in April 2023. The Cities & Towns index was 129.7 in April 2023, recording a growth of 1.2 percent from 128.2 in March.
The Urban Villages index registered an increase of 1.2 percent from 128.4 to 130.0 during the period under review, whilst the Rural Villages index rose by 0.9 percent from 127.9 in March to 129.0 in April 2023.
Four (4) group indices recorded changes of at least 1.0 percent between March and April 2023, specially; Miscellaneous Goods & Services (5.5 percent), Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (1.8 percent), Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverage (1.2 percent), and Recreation & Culture (1.2 percent).
The Miscellaneous Goods & Services group index registered an Increase of 5.5 percent, from 125.5 in March to 132.5 in April 2023. The rise was largely due to a growth in the constituent section indices of Insurance (11.2 percent) and Personal Care (2.1 percent).
The Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco group index rose by 1.8 percent, from 126.5 in March 2023 to 128.7 in April 2023. The increase was owing to the rise in the constituent section indices of Alcoholic Beverages (1.9 percent) and Tobacco (1.1 percent).
The Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages group index increased by 1.2 percent, from 136.6 in March to 138.2 in April 2023. The rise in the Food group index was attributed to the increases of; Vegetables (3.9 percent), Fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) (1.7 percent), Coffee, Tea & Cocoa (1.5 percent), Milk, Cheese & Milk Products (1.5 percent) Fruits (1.4 percent) Meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) (1.1 percent), Mineral Waters, Soft Drinks, Fruits & Vegetables Juices (1.1 percent) and Food Not Elsewhere Classified (1.0 percent).
The Recreation & Culture group index registered a growth of 1.2 percent, from 108.9 in March to 110.2 in April 2023. The rise was owed to the general increase in the constituent section indices, particularly; Recreational & Cultural Services (8.2 percent).
The All-Tradeables index recorded an increase of 0.9 percent in April 2023, from 134.2 in March 2023 to 135.4. The Non-Tradeables Index went up by 1.5 percent, from 120.1 in March to 121.8 in April 2023. The Domestic Tradeables Index moved from 131.8 in March to 133.3 in April 2023, registering a rise of 1.1 percent.
The Imported Tradeables Index realised a growth of 0.8 percent over the two periods, from 135.0 in March to 136.2 in April 2023. The All-Tradeables inflation rate was 10.3 percent in April 2023, registering a drop of 2.4 percentage points from the March 2023 rate of 12.7 percent.
The Imported Tradeables inflation rate went down by 3.1 percentage points from 12.4 percent in March to 9.3 percent in April 2023. The Non-Tradeables inflation was 4.6 percent in April 2023, a decline of 1.4 percentage points from the March 2023 rate of 6.0 percent. The Domestic Tradeables inflation rate registered a drop of 0.3 of a percentage point, from 13.4 percent in March to 13.1 percent in April 2023.
The Trimmed Mean Core inflation rate went down by 2.1 percentage points, from 9.2 percent in March 2023 to 7.1 percent in April 2023. The Core Inflation rate (excluding administered prices) was 8.3 percent in April 2023, a decrease of 0.6 of a percentage point from the March 2023 rate of 8.9 percent.
IMF warns of GDP decline in Sub Saharan Africa
A new report by International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that countries in Sub Saharan Africa including Botswana could record significant losses in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a result rising geo-political tensions among major economies in global trade.
Recent trends show that there is a deepening fragmentation in global economy, following US-led NATO war against Russia in Ukraine and trade war between US and China.
According to some local trade analysts the fragmentation of global economy leading to competing (US/EU bloc and China bloc could result with Sub Saharan Africa losing markets for some of its export commodities. The trade analysts noted that US & China are failing to implement an agreement, intended to stop the trade war and address some of the US fundamental concerns that instigated the war. USD34 billion worth of Chinese goods intended for the US market reportedly expired in July 2022 while US President Joe Biden administration was still reviewing import tariffs while another USD16 billion worth of goods expired in August, and a third batch of goods worth approximately USD100 billion expired in September. The analysts indicated that as a result of the trade war, the manufacturing sector at the US and China could lower production of goods, resulting with subdued demand for exports of raw materials and other commodities such as minerals from Botswana and other Sub Saharan countries.
In its April 2023 regional economic outlook report titled, “Geo-economic Fragmentation: Sub-Saharan Africa Caught between the Fault Lines” IMF indicated that recent data shows that rising geo-political tensions among major economies is intensifying economic and financial fragmentation in the global economy. The IMF cautioned that countries in Sub Saharan Africa could lose the most as a result of fragmented world.
The IMF stated that while countries in Sub-Saharan region benefited from increased global integration during the last two decades, the emergence of geo-economic fragmentation has exposed potential downsides. “Sub-Saharan Africa has benefited from the expansion of economic ties over the past two decades. The region has formed new economic ties with non-traditional partners in the past two decades. Riding on the tailwinds of China’s globalization since the early 2000s, the value of exports from Sub-Saharan Africa to China increased tenfold over this period, largely driven by oil exports, according IMF adding that China has also emerged as an important source of external financing. The US and EU still supply most of the region’s foreign direct investment (FDI) stock, with China accounting for only 6 percent of it as of end-2020, according to IMF.
IMF stated that overall, the expansion and diversification of economic linkages with the major global economies benefited the region. “The region’s trade openness measured as imports plus exports as share of GDP doubled from 20 percent of GDP before 2000 to about 40 percent. This doubling, together with buoyant commodity prices, among other factors, contributed to the growth take-off during this period, boosting living standards and development.”
IMF noted that overall, sub-Saharan Africa is now almost equally connected with traditionally dominant (US and EU) and newly emerging (China, India, among others) partners and warned that the downside of increased economic integration is that sub-Saharan Africa has become more susceptible to global shocks. “Sub-Saharan Africa stands to lose the most in a severely fragmented world compared to other regions. In the severe scenario of a world fully split into two isolated trading blocs, sub-Saharan Africa would be hit especially hard because it would lose access to a large share of current trade partners. About half of the region’s value of current international trade would be affected in a scenario in which the world is split into two trading blocs: one centered on the US and the EU (US/EU bloc) and the other centered on China.”
IMF indicated that under a severe “geo-economic fragmentation” scenario, trade flows would adjust over time. “But as the region loses access to key export markets and experiences higher import prices, the median sub-Saharan African country would be expected to experience a permanent decline of 4 percent of real GDP after 10 years. Estimated losses are smaller than the losses during the COVID-19 pandemic but larger than those during the global financial crisis.”
IMF warned that disruptions to capital flows and technology transfer could bring additional losses. “Separately from the trade simulation results, in a world where countries were to cut off their capital flow ties with either bloc consistent with the preceding severe scenario, the region could lose about $10 billion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and official development assistance inflows, equivalent to about half a percent of GDP a year, based on an average 2017–19 estimate. In the long run, trade restrictions and a reduction in FDI could also hinder much needed export-led growth and technology transfers.”
IMF meanwhile said not all is bleak as some milder scenarios of shifting geopolitics may create new trade partnerships for the region. “In a scenario in which ties are cut only between Russia and the US/EU while sub-Saharan African countries continue to trade freely (referred to as “strategic decoupling”), trade flows would be diverted partly towards the rest of the world and intra-regional trade in sub-Saharan Africa may increase.”
IMF recommended that countries in Sub Saharan Africa should build resilience that requires strengthening regional integration and expanding the pool of domestic resources to counter potential external shocks: According to IMF trade experts strengthening the ongoing regional trade integration under the African Continental Free Trade Area could help build resilience amid external shocks. Greater integration will require reducing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, strengthening efficiency in customs, leveraging digitalization, and closing the infrastructure gaps, according to the experts.
The experts also recommended that countries in the region should deepen domestic financial markets as that can broaden the sources of financing and lower the volatility associated with excessive reliance on foreign inflows. “By upgrading domestic financial market infrastructure including through digitalization, transparency and regulation, and expanding financial product diversity, sub-Saharan African countries can expand financial inclusion, build a broader domestic investor base. Improving domestic revenue mobilization is critical to reducing the share of commodity-linked fiscal revenues.”