A few days before Britain took the biggest political decision ever made -leaving the European Union ‘‘Brexit’’- the UK government decided to allow Huawei, a Chinese technology company, to supply the country’s 5G networks.
Following the trade war between the two leading economies- China and the United States of America- UK and Washington, USA, ramped up pressure on London to exclude Huawei from the country’s 5G network. USA warned its European ally that the 5G that Huawei operates is susceptible to a compromise on any state intelligence, allowing the oriental giant to spy on other countries.
UK has been caught in the trade war crossfire, but a UK parliamentary committee concluded last year that there was no technical reason for excluding Huawei. The committee confirmed that banning Huawei may have been inspired by “geopolitical or ethical ground to enact a ban on Huawei’s equipment.’’
UK also was reported on many media outlets to have said that the package of restrictions being announced on “high risk” 5G vendors will allow it to “mitigate the potential risk posed by the supply chain and to combat the range of threats, whether cyber criminals, or state sponsored attacks.”
Just before the final Brexit move, UK Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan said government has reviewed the supply chain for telecoms networks and concluded that it was necessary to have tight restrictions on the presence of high risk vendors.
The US has been seen to be trying to influence its allies, including UK, to ban Huawei. When taking a decision to leave the EU, UK has always said the US would be its biggest ally. It is reported that countries across EU and in Europe, are yet to put an embargo on Huawei.
Operators warned that banning Huawei may add years of delays and billions in costs to European countries’ 5G network launch. The UK techno experts also revealed evidence showing that the country’s economy will lose £7 billion as a result of more expensive 5G networks, a cost that will then hit all British nationals.
Botswana is said to be looking into tapping into the 5G bandwagon soon and Huawei representatives in Gaborone said having 5G will be a welcomed development for the country. Most importantly, according to a Huawei representative in Botswana, Adam Hu Cunhao said 5G will enable billions of new connections with speed and security.
“It will also connect everything to everything(X2X), acting as a critical enabler for massive IoT. Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), remote critical control and more. Cars will be connected to the roads and cities they navigate, doctors connected to the medical devices of their patients, and physical infrastructure and assets connected to those tasked with maintaining and managing them. With the benefits of 5G, Botswana will create more job opportunities for the youth in different industries,” said Cunhao.
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.
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.
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”