Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Tao Zhang has called on Botswana to fast-track coming up and swiftly implementing a completely new growth model to transform Botswana’s economy before it is weighed down by increasing external shocks and stagnant domestic growth rate.
Tao Zhang was speaking at a workshop on economic diversification held in conjunction with Bank of Botswana in Kasane this past weekend. Zhang noted that Botswana’s success story from one of the poorest countries in the world before independence to one of the most celebrated rapid economic growth examples today cannot go untold.
The IMF Top Executive however underscored that it is now time to elevate to another level “This has been one of the inspiring transformations in Sub-Saharan Africa, however the need for a new growth model to accelerate Botswana’s convergence and transition to high-income status cannot be over emphasized,” he said.
Zhang cautioned that in the short term Botswana has to guard against external shocks, those to the diamond market and climate change, stressing that these short- and long-term challenges could be addressed by diversifying the economy. “The government of Botswana has made clear its objectives. The question that remains is how best to achieve them, macroeconomic stability and a predictable policy environment are critical to supporting good outcomes from the interventions geared towards realizing these aspirations,” he said.
The IMF’s Second in command posed questions to attendees who included amongst others policy makers, members of the National Economic Transformation Strategy committee and top officials from Ministry of Finance, Bank of Botswana and Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry. “What is the role of the Government? Should it follow sector-neutral or horizontal policies, letting market forces choose sectors and activities, or should it follow a more active approach as many countries have done?” posed the Washington based lender Deputy Chief.
Zhang cited Chile as one of the countries that realized return on investment from their economic growth matrix “Whether Chile followed the standard growth recipe or went beyond it in developing the salmon industry, we need to learn and benchmark on that and see how best we can curtail that to our own economic circumstance and growth requisites,” he said. According to the IMF Executive the notion that markets do indeed fail and government intervention could be warranted is in practice difficult as it often not easy to identify a market failure realistically than it is on paper.
“Even abstracting from market failures, some countries have targeted specific sectors. And there the question arises, which sector should be targeted? Should we stick to the existing perceived comparative advantage and develop vertically along the supply chain of existing products?” Zhang reiterated that if policymakers decide to support a particular sector, then a question on how to support the sector, whether that sector should be regulated or not remain cardinal decisions for leaders to make.
“There is, of course, a wide range of policies including specific tax incentives, tariff and non-tariff barriers, cheap financing for special economic zones, and public research and development, but even tapping on those we need to ensure we do not undermine other economic growth requisites like domestic resource mobilization” Tao said. Tao Zhang’s visit comes after a mission undertaken by IMF team led by Mr. Papa N’Diaye late last year which held discussions for the 2019 Article I Consultation with Botswana.
The discussions focused on macroeconomic policies to increase the resilience of the economy in the face of persistently low mineral revenue and transfers from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), as well as the structural reforms needed to achieve the authorities’ objective to transition to a knowledge-based economy and high-income status by 2036.
The IMF team noted that after a relatively good performance in 2018, Botswana‘s economy faced headwinds in the year 2019 related to weaknesses in the diamond market, a severe drought, and slower growth in neighboring countries. It was noted that growth would slow to about 3.5 percent in 2019, while inflation would remain low. The Government current account was projected to move to negative territory, contributing to a decline in reserves.
The fiscal deficit was signaled to reach 5.75 percent of GDP due to lower-than-expected revenue, higher-than-expected increase in public wages and other recurrent spending. Despite these challenges, the banking sector was projected to remain well capitalized with improving liquidity. For the year 2020, the IMF team noted that under its baseline scenario, growth is expected to recover to 4.2 percent in 2020, as the diamond market normalizes and copper production comes into stream, and hover around 4 percent thereafter.
This was however noted by N’Diaye’s team to be a level too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labor market. N Diaye further noted that infection would accelerate amid accommodative monetary policy but remain in the bottom half of the Bank of Botswana target band. Fiscal consolidation will gradually reduce the deficit and would contribute to a gradual rebuilding of buffers over the medium term.
“The outlook is subject to significant downside risks, including a global rise in protectionism, a faster-than-anticipated slowdown in China and in the euro area, and continued slow growth in South Africa,” he said. Experts say over the medium term, Botswana’s economy remains vulnerable to volatile mineral revenue and SACU transfers and to climate shocks. Economists say upside risks could stem from higher-than-expected mining production such as coal.
Papa N’Diaye’s team noted that Botswana’s objective to return to a ï¬scal surplus over the medium term in line with their track record of ï¬scal discipline was a welcome ambition. “While Botswana still has some ï¬scal space that allows a gradual adjustment, ï¬scal consolidation should start in full year 2020, supported by both revenue and expenditure measures. In advancing consolidation, the composition of the adjustment needs to be carefully calibrated to minimize the impact on competitiveness, growth, and the most vulnerable,” recommended the IMF.
The Global economic think tank further noted that for Botswana to achieve its objectives of moving to a knowledge-based economy and to high-income status by 2036, the country will require changing the growth model from a mining and government-led model to a private sector and export-driven. This entails revamping the macroeconomic policy frameworks to increase the resilience of the economy and accelerating the implementation of supply-side reforms.
Recommended ï¬scal reforms include amongst others modifying the fiscal rule to prevent further erosions in buffers and achieve Botswana’s intergenerational equity objectives. The IMF also recommended that Botswana should increase its revenue mobilization through broadening the tax base and advancing tax reform, as well a public financial management reforms to enhancing the efficiency of spending.
Botswana was also advised to reform parastatals and other extra-budgetary entities, including by enforcing compliance to best governance practices and strengthening their monitoring and accountability, and revamping the debt management framework.“Regarding monetary and exchange rate policy, Bank of Botswana was advised to use the flexibility afforded by its current exchange rate regime to help the economy adjust to the persistent decline in mineral and trade resources and structural transformation.
“Recent reforms to strengthen the monetary transmission mechanism and deepen the domestic financial market should continue, including by further developing the secondary market for government securities, leveraging Fintech, facilitating the attachment of collateral, and improving credit information,” said IMF chiefs.
The Global lender says transitioning to a knowledge-based economy and a high-income status will require prioritizing investment in human capital, upgrading digital skills and deepening Information and Communications Technology penetration, as well as promoting integration in regional and global value chains.
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.
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.
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.