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Economic diversification efforts not paying off – Sebabole

Chief Economist at First National Bank (FNBB), Moatlhodi Sebabole says Botswana’s efforts towards diversifying the economy and realizing a mixed revenue profile are clearly not paying off. Sebabole said this recently when giving pre and post budget reviews for the 2020/21 financial year.

Citing Botswana’s revenue and grants basket profile Sebabole says the figures show a clear trend of dependence on mineral revenue signaling undesirable outcome against the run of efforts and investment in trying to pick up other revenue channels. Owing to the steep downturn in the diamond market during the 2008/09 Global financial crises Mineral revenue accounted for only 30 % of Government revenue in the 2009/10 financial year with SACU revenue accounting  for about 26 %  and Non mineral economic sectors  revenue going in at 19% while VAT contributed  in 13 %.

Against all efforts to diversify the economy the Mineral revenue rose through the years to account for about 37 %  of government total budget in 2015 until dropping down a bit to just over 35 % for  2019/20 financial year. However total revenues and grants for the 2019/2020 Financial Year were  revised to P60.71 billion with the main revenue contributor being Mineral revenue at P18.43 billion; Customs and Excise at P13.79 billion; and VAT at P7.92 billion. This placed mineral revenue at just above 30 % of total revenue and grants.

“As long as Mineral revenue still accounts for over 30 % of our total revenue, zigzagging up and down through the years to over 35 %, our revenue profile poses a serious risk,” cautioned Sebabole. The Economist further indicated that other revenue windows such as Customs and Excise revenue have remained below 25 % for some time signaling trade stagnancy and little improvement on the export sector.

Within the Foreign income earning basket Mineral revenue controls the channel, sitting at almost 90 %. “In Africa it is Botswana and Angola with this unhealthy revenue profile, Angola because of their Oil and Botswana because of our diamonds, this signals that we have failed over the years to diversify our economy and promote export of other products to foreign markets,” he said.

For the 2020/21 financial year total revenues and grants are estimated at P62.39 billion, of which, Mineral revenue is estimated at P20.02 billion. Customs and Excise revenue is expected to be P15.38 billion, with Non-Mineral Income Tax estimated at P14.22 billion, while VAT is expected to amount to P8.55 billion.

These estimated figures mirror that government revenue will still in the coming years rely heavily on mineral exports. However Moathodi Sebabole who is also chairman of National Economic Transformation strategy set up by President Masisi last year says government consolidated efforts and singling out Export development as one of its key priority areas sparks some confidence going forward.

Delivering the Budget Speech on Monday Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Thapelo Matsheka highlighted that amongst government‘s key priority areas promotion of export growth comes on top. “The objective is to ensure that the drivers of economic growth in Botswana shift towards export promotion. This, Mr. Speaker, will address the balance of payments problem, which has emerged in recent years as a constraint to economic growth,” he said.

Dr Matsheka explained that as a result, greater effort is required in implementing the country’s Export Strategy, since increased exports of goods and services do not only contribute to growth, improved balance of trade position; but are necessary for replenishing the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The Minister explained that on the positive fronts, acknowledging the slight progress thus far, and preliminary review of the first half of National Development Plan 11 signals that economic performance was in line with the original NDP 11 projections, while economic diversification progressed fairly well during the first half of NDP 11.

The share of the non-mining private sector in value added terms rose to 66 percent in 2018, compared to 63 percent in 2015. The sectoral pattern of growth also showed that the services sectors of Transport & Communications, Trade, Hotels & Restaurants, and Finance & Business Services were the fastest growing sectors.   

He however noted that Botswana still imports most of its requirements, including basic products that do not require huge investment to produce locally. Minister Matsheka explained that using Government’s purchasing power through programmes such as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and citizen empowerment initiatives, additional measures will be put in place to ensure reduction in the country’s import bill. “It is only through a deliberate and vigorous implementation of the Export Strategy and Import Substitution Strategy that the country can restore its external balance and create the jobs that are required in an inclusive economy, in which Batswana are major players,” he said.

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Dark days as Aviation industry collapses

22nd November 2020
Air Botswana

As the Aviation industry takes a COVID-19 pummeling, for Africa the numbers are staggering, Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac has observed.

Speaking recently at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has been hosting an Annual General Assembly, de Juniac said traffic is down 89% and revenue loses are expected to reach $6 billion. And this figure is likely to be revised downwards in the next forecast to be released later this month. “But the impact is much broader. The consequences of the breakdown in connectivity are severe,” he surmised.

According to de Juniac, five million African livelihoods are at risk while aviation-supported GDP could fall by as much as $37 billion. That’s a 58% fall.

“We have a health crisis. And it is evolving into a jobs and economic disaster. Fixing it is beyond the scope of what the industry can do by itself.”

He said they need governments to act, “And act fast to prevent a calamity.”

“We are in the middle of the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced. As leaders of Africa’s aviation industry, you know that firsthand. Airline revenues have collapsed. Fleets are grounded. And you are taking extreme actions just to survive. We all support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our duty and we will prevail. But policymakers must know that this has come at a great cost to jobs, individual freedoms and entire economies,” he said.

de Juniac used the AFRA general assembly platform to amplify IATA’s call for governments to address two top priorities: “The first is unblocking committed financial relief. Airlines will go bust without it. Already four African carriers have ceased operations and two are in administration. Without financial relief, many others will follow.”

Over US$31 billion in financial support has been pledged by African governments, international finance bodies and other institutions, including the African Development Bank, the African Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Unfortunately de Juniac pointed out, in his words, “Pledges do not pay the bills. And little of this funding has materialized. And let me emphasize that, while we are calling for relief for aviation, this is an investment in the future of the continent. It will need financially viable airlines to support the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The second priority, according to IATA is to safely re-open borders using testing and without quarantines.

“People have not lost their desire to travel. Border closures and travel restrictions make it effectively impossible. Forty-four countries in Africa have opened their borders to regional and international air travel. In 20 of these countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Who would travel under such conditions?” de Juniac quizzed rhetorically.

He suggested that countries should adopt systematic testing before departure provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COVID-19.

He admitted that it’s a frightening time for everyone, not least the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a functioning airline industry. Right now, de Juniac said there essentially is no airline industry. He cited the example that China’s largest airlines sound optimistic, but in a vague way. “They gave no hard data about current yields, loads, or forward bookings, discussing only developments in 2019. Boy, does that seem like ages ago.”

Aviation’s darkest days

The IATA CEO said these are the darkest days in aviation’s history. “But as leaders of this great industry I know that you will share with me continued confidence in the future.

Our customers want to fly. They desire the exploration that aviation enables. They need to do international business that aviation facilitates. And they long to reunite with family and loved ones.”

He said the industry will, no doubt, be changed by this crisis, but flying will return. “Airlines will be back in the skies. The resilience of our industry has been proven many times. We will rise again,” he said.

de Juniac said Aviation is a business of freedom. “For Africa that is the freedom to develop and thrive. And that is not something people on this continent will forget or lose their desire for.”

 

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Inflation increased to 2.2% in October 2020

22nd November 2020

Headline inflation increased from 1.8 percent in September to 2.2 percent in October 2020, but remained below the lower bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent, and lower than the 2.4 percent in October 2019.

According to Statistics Botswana, the increase in inflation between September and October 2020 mainly reflects the upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices {Transport (from -3.9 to -2.5 percent)}, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.29 percentage points.

“There was also a rise in the annual price increase for most categories of goods and services: Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (from 6.2 to 6.6 percent); Clothing and Footwear (from 2.5 to 2.7 percent); Communications (from 0.6 to 0.9 percent); Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels (from 6.4 to 6.6 percent); Recreation and Culture (from 0 to 0.2 percent); Miscellaneous Goods and Services (from 0.7 to 0.9 percent); Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (from 4.2 to 4.3 percent); and Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Maintenance (from 2 to 2.1 percent). Inflation remained stable for: Education (4.7 percent); Restaurants and Hotels (3 percent); and Health (1.5 percent). Similarly, the 16 percent trimmed mean inflation and inflation excluding administered prices rose from 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent to 2.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in the same period.”

[Source: Bank of Botswana]

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BDC injects further P64 million into Kromberg & Schubert

22nd November 2020
BDC

Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has to date pumped a total of P100 million into the expansion of Kromberg and Schubert, a car harnessing manufacturing company, operating from Gaborone Old Naledi.

At the official ground breaking ceremony of the company‘s new warehouse today, BDC Managing Director, Cross Kgosidiile revealed the wholly state owned investment corporation has pumped P64 million into the expansion which entailed building of the new warehouse.

Kgosidiile explained that this follows another expansion project which was successfully launched in 2017, in which BDC invested P36 million, bringing the total investment into Kromberg at P100 million. The MD also acknowledged Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) as a partner in the project and for having facilitated the acquisition of the land.

 

Giving a keynote address, Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry, Peggy Serame highlighted the importance of infrastructural development in growing the local manufacturing sector and transforming the economy of Botswana.

Serame underscored the value of strategic partnerships between Government and the private sector, noting that when the two work together and pull together in one direction results will be evident and jobs will be created.

“With the prevailing conditions of depressed economy occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, government is reliant on entities like BDC to bring in revenue and acceleration of private sector development in line with its mandate and strategic plan. This plan is supported by the need to invest in growth sectors and accelerate the implementation of the Economic Diversification Drive,” Serame said.

Minister Serame noted that the partnership between BDC and Kromberg & Schubert begun in 2017 when the P36 million, 4100 square metres factory expansion for the company was launched.

 

She said the launch of the 7320 square meters factory expansion, to be built at the tune of P64 million signals the continuation of the good partnership between the two companies.

 

“I must commend BDC for their continuous efforts to build partnerships with the private sector geared towards contributing to economic development of this country.”

 

Minister Serame also added that BITC through its robust investor aftercare programme continues to provide value added and red carpet to Kromberg and Schubert under their One Stop Service Centre.

 

“In this regard BITC facilitated acquisition of land to enable this expansion. I therefore would like to commend BITC for their timely facilitation to make this expansion possible,” the minister said.

 

Kromberg & Schubert was incorporated in Botswana in 2009; The Company has grown to asset its position as a significant player in the regional automotive industry value chain.

 

The company is also a critical player in the economic development of Botswana, it currently employs 2100 Batswana across its operations. Kromberg exports on average P2.0 billion worth of goods annually, contributing significantly to foreign exchange.

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