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Sub-Saharan Africa debt level Surges – Moody’s

Following a sharp decline in government debt from multilateral debt-relief initiatives in the last decade, primary fiscal deficits, currency depreciation as well as the materialization of contingent liabilities in some countries, has driven an accumulation in SSA sovereign debt since 2012.

This is according to a report by Moody's Investors Service released last week. The Global think tank says while containing debt-servicing costs in the near term, relatively favourable financing conditions in recent years have encouraged spending and debt accumulation especially for infrastructure investment. “Between 2012 and 2018, government debt-to-GDP ratios increased by at least 15 percentage points in almost two thirds of the sovereigns we rate in SSA and by at least 30 percentage points in about one third.” Reads the report released from UK this week.

Moody’s says Government debt now exceeds 50% of GDP in more than half of the region's rated sovereigns. Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Republic of the Congo are among the sovereigns that have experienced the most rapid accumulation of government debt since 2012. The report further reveals that drivers behind the debt increase vary, including disclosure of hidden debt in the case of Mozambique, exchange rate depreciation inflating the foreign-currency denominated debt in the case of Angola and Zambia as well as persistent fiscal deficits.

Sub-Saharan African sovereigns' debt has increased and affordability has deteriorated, with government debt now exceeding 50% of GDP in more than half of the sovereigns we rate in the region," said Daniela Re Fraschini, a Moody's AVP-Analyst and the report's co-author.
"At the same time, a shift in creditor bases has increased credit risks in several countries. He said

Moody's Investors Service says although the debt burdens of most Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) governments will stabilize in 2020-21 after years of increase, several sovereigns are now increasingly vulnerable to a financing shock. Credit risks are highest in countries where unfavourable debt structures coincide with narrow external buffers, financing constraints on domestic banking sectors and weak debt-management capacity. The Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zambia are most exposed, while Ghana, Angola and Kenya are also vulnerable but to a lesser extent.

With countries having greater access to capital markets, issuance on domestic and international capital markets has increased and the share of borrowing from multilateral lenders has fallen. Although this has diversified funding sources, fostered investor scrutiny on macro-fiscal policy and provided funding for development spending, Moody’s says it has also increased exposure to global financing conditions, amplified foreign-currency exposures and increased refinancing risk. At the same time, in some countries bilateral lending has shifted toward non-traditional creditors that usually offer less transparent and predictable terms.

Daniela Re Fraschini says the domestic banking sector remains the main holder of domestic bonds and a significant portion of total government debt and its absorption capacities may be limited, especially when the sector is small relative to the sovereign's financing needs. Fraschini however says its absorption capacities may be limited, especially when the sector is small relative to the sovereign's financing needs like in Kenya and government securities already account for a large share of assets.

In Ghana and Zambia, relatively high foreign participation in the domestic market intensifies the vulnerability to shifts in investor appetite. “Improvements in debt management have not been commensurate to the risks from higher debt levels and debt structures more exposed to financing shocks” he said

The composition of public debt in terms of maturity, interest rate and currency structure and the existence of explicit or implicit contingent liabilities determine a government's resilience to domestic and external shocks, and is an important consideration in our assessment of fiscal strength, government liquidity risk as well as external vulnerability risk.

Moody’s assessment of fiscal strength typically incorporates the vulnerability to adverse currency movements leading to an increase in the sovereign’s overall debt burden and a decrease in its debt affordability by measuring the share of foreign-currency debt. Debt affordability and contingent liabilities that pose substantial risks to a government’s balance sheet are also captured in the assessment of fiscal strength. Moody’s further assess government liquidity risk focusing on the sovereign's ease of access to funding, taking into account the maturity and cost structure, the currency mix and the creditor base.

Assessment of external vulnerability risk takes into account external imbalances, large reliance on short-term capital inflows to finance the current account deficit that can result in depreciation pressures and the adequacy of foreign reserve buffers to meet foreign currency payments.

Moody’s says amid favourable conditions in global financial markets and increased foreign interest in domestic debt markets, governments in SSA have shifted their borrowing strategies away from international financial institutions and traditional bilateral official creditors to private creditors.  The decline in the share of multilateral debt since 2012 has been most pronounced in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia. Sovereigns that have reported an increase in multilateral financing include Gabon and Niger

A total of 15 governments in SSA issued international bonds between 2010 and 2019, several on a repeated basis with sizeable issuances. “The eurobond issuance of the SSA sovereigns of countries rated by Moody’s reached a record high $19.2 billion in 2018, more than triple 2016 levels. Sovereigns across the region have tapped international bond markets for different reasons including supporting the development of the corporate bond markets in countries such as South Africa and Nigeria and mostly for financing the increase in public investment

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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