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Minerals discoveries stir economic prospects

Agriculture continues to be a critical sector when it comes to employment creation

President Lt Gen Ian Khama has said other mineral prospects are looking good for the country and government is working around the clock to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from the new found gems. In an interview the President has also revealed that they are confident that diamonds are still around up beyond 2050.

The President’s comments come on the backdrop of talk of dwindling diamonds reserves and possible the future after diamonds. Khama clarified that Botswana is not diversifying away from minerals but instead wants to ensure that the economy is not dominated by one commodity.

On the other hand he noted that in the meantime, while the diamonds are still good, government is maximising benefits through the beneficiation process. “By next year we are going into the net phase of beneficiation as we look into manufacturing jewellery here at home,” he said. He said he was happy that Botswana would have completed the entire value chain.

According to President Khama, new technology will ensure that the lifespan of diamond go beyond 2050, which is in sharp contrast to the much talked about 2027.

Consultants, Rob Davies and Dirk van Seventer sharing recently at a BIDPA workshop indicated that indeed “Diamonds will one day run out not necessarily physically but will be more costly to mine not sure when, but around late 2020s.”
The study titled Life after Diamonds: The Economy Wide Consequences of Declining Diamond Production in Botswana, is a composite of a wide ranging economic report commissioned by BIDPA for private sector body, Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM).  


They give three possible scenarios showing how the effects of depletion of diamonds will manifest and how they can be mitigated.


“We assume that the decline takes place between 2025 and 2027, although lessons we draw do not depend on this precise timing; here we report that the most significant and permanent decline assuming that by 2027, GDP in diamond mining declines by 75 percent below its 2024 level and remains constant; This decline leads to total GDP of 25 percent in 2028, below what would otherwise have been. Even after diamond production stabilises, the economy declines and ten years after the presumed reduction in diamond production started, GDP is 48 percent below what it would have been.”

ENCOURAGING MINERAL DEPOSITS
President Khama shared that there has been very encouraging discoveries of other mineral deposits around the country. He said there are good discoveries of copper, iron ore, gas, and coal deposits. He said in the near future Botswana should be exporting coal and other minerals in their volumes. Khama said it was encouraging that there still continues to be other discoveries of diamond deposits. He gave the example that he recently opened another diamond mine in the Gantsi area. He emphasised that the advent of new technologies has ensured that more mineral discoveries are found in the country.

TOURISM POTENTIAL BIG EMPLOYER
Khama said Botswana is pushing hard to elevate tourism to its imagined levels of contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said tourism is generally a large scale employer and is optimistic that overtime it will employ more Batswana. He said the world over tourism contributes close to 45 percent of jobs, and he wants Botswana to get close to the international average of jobs created through tourism.

AGRICULTURE ON TRACK
Agriculture continues to be a critical sector when it comes to employment creation and feeding the nation. He said there are mega projects lined up in the agriculture sector which are likely to scale up its performance in the short term. He gave the example of the Agro Zambezi project, which he said government intends to push for its effective implementation.

TARGETING THE SADC MARKET
On Manufacturing the President acknowledged that being neighbours with South Africa can be challenging because of their perceived advantages such as a big population of over 50 million people, proximity to the sea ports and other factors.

However he said as a country Botswana is taking advantage of being landlocked. He observed that there is more that is being done to improve the country’s infrastructure, roads and other key developments. Khama cited the likelihood of direct flights to international markets in the near future. He said already three airlines have shown interest in having direct flights to Botswana.

He said this will make it easy for Botswana to attract Foreign Direct Investment especially after the completion of other projects such as the Trans Kalahari railway line and the Kazungula project.  He said the intention is widen the market that investors could potentially access when they open business in Botswana.

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P230 million Phikwe revival project kicks off

19th October 2020
industrial hub

Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status.  The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.

This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago.  In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.

However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced.  Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.

The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.

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IMF projects deeper recession for 2020, slow recovery for 2021

19th October 2020

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.

On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April.  For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.

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Botswana partly closed economy a further blow of 4.2 fall in revenue

19th October 2020

The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.

Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.

Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).

“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.

Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.

This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.

For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.

Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers.  “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.

‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’

According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.

Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.

“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.

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