Some observers have seen an even bigger picture for a local consumer in the current oil price warfare; when oil prices go down, transportation of any commodity from Botswana’s main exporter South Africa will ease hence the cost of food subsequently falling.
Opening this week on Monday, history was made as the global oil price for crude skidded to its lowest level since 1991, a barrel was under $32 as international regulator of oil prices and production OPEC led by Saudi Arabia are entangled in a price war with the world’s biggest oil player- Russia.
Now superpowers Saudi Arabia and Russia are fighting over how much should be produced and how far prices should go. After the increase in the intensity of coronavirus, OPEC decided to decrease production by one million barrels per day and wanted even non-OPEC members including their leader Russia, to follow suit. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated this week that the country would not cut production, Saudi Arabia responded by shedding prices of oil while the market is swamped by cheap produce.
Motswedi Securities on Monday explained that the decline in prices came as OPEC+ member, Russia, went against efforts made by de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, to cut production to curb the coronavirus effects on demand. Saudi Arabia retaliated by evoking a price war against Russia by cutting its prices from $14 to $8. When commenting on the oil price war on Forbes magazine this week Ellen Wald wrote that, “the oil collapse this week is the result of two powerful oil producers reacting in their own best interests during a global demand crisis.”
On Tuesday Motswedi Securities said the price slash by OPEC's de facto leader Saudi Arabia on Monday evoked a price war with non-OPEC member Russia. The commodity climbed by almost 10% in the day (Tuesday), coming back slightly from a year to date loss of just above -50% to about -43%. According to Motswedi it announced at the beginning of the week that it would be increasing its production levels, which would be its first increase in over ten years. Output in the country will increase from 12mn barrels per day to 13mn barrels per day, with the commodity's price trading around 3% lower at US$36.09/bbl, at the time of writing.
But some observers see the good in this, Batswana will to go to South Africa for a huge shopping spree. Botswana gets most of its oil imports from South Africa, the country accounts for 64.4 percent of this country’s total imports according to latest statistics. In 2018 Botswana’s import bill from South Africa was US$ 3. 87 billion while the mineral fuels, oils and distillation products accounted for $4763.48 in the same year. Furthermore statistics suggests Botswana imports from South Africa of Oils and Other Products of Distillation of High Temperature Coal Tar was US$208.98 according to recent statistics.
According to Statistics Botswana, Commodities that were imported mostly in December 2019 were Diamonds; Food, Beverages & Tobacco and Fuel with contributions of 25.7 percent, 17.0 percent and 16.6 percent respectively. Out of all that is being put on paper, Botswana will buy everything in South Africa cheaper as fuel prices are lowered for transportation of goods, commodities will be even lower.
A private player, 100 percent citizen-owned company in the energy industry Boswa Energy CEO, Tumelo Sealetsa told BusinessPost in an interview that he expects food prices to decrease responding to the current oil price crash. He said decrease in oil means Boswa Energy will benefit and highlighted that food prices will eventually go down as diesel prices, a commodity used in farming and many other agriculture activities, fell this week. Retailers will ease food prices hence consumers paying a lot lesser than what they took out of their pockets few months ago.
According to Statistics Botswana price statistics, the Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages group index registered an increase of 0.7 percent, moving from 103.0 in December 2019 to 103.7 in January 2020. The statistics was attributed to the increase in major constituent section indices of Meat (1.6 percent), Fruits (0.9 percent) and Bread & Cereals (0.6 percent). Botswana imports most of these commodities from South Africa. Many experts expect the April inflation to have a huge fall in food prices for Botswana due to what transpired after the oil crash. Batswana consumers may have to face mask their SA spree as COVID-19 awaits
Another big headline for the oil’s Blue Monday crash, the South African Rand was also not without its woes, plunging by 8 percent against the American dollar this Monday. The Rand fell on its knees, a very big knock since January 1980, as a result of this it is reported that investors are fleeing from riskier assets. Adding more salt to the Rand’s wound is the tumbling oil prices which further put weight on the coronavirus spread scare. On Monday morning, the same day of the oil crash, as the rand fell R16.75 to the US dollar. To the Pound Sterling the Rand reflected R21 on Monday.
Economist Othata Batsetswe said the bubble or excitement that Batswana should go shopping because coronavirus does not hold enough air, because the Rand fall and oil crash would not affect the local economy that much. South Africa has so far reached 13 numbers of coronavirus cases and the numbers seem to be growing with time.
“Because the oil crash and Rand fall is against a backdrop of another economic impediment, the coronavirus outbreak, which will also affect Batswana or the local economy. Whatever might seem to be advantageous to Batswana may be economically inconsequential. Even though the oil crash and the rand fall, Batswana will still stay home because of coronavirus. Also if South Africa goes into recession, expect it to pull economies that are dependent on it like Botswana to go down with it. So there will be business as usual,” said Batsetswe.
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”