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.
Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
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Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.
The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.
Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.
“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.
He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.
Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.
“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.
He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.
He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc
“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran
Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.
“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.
Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.
“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.
He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.
“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams
He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .
Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.
“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.