Since commencement of Botswana’s response strategy to defend the nation against Coronavirus, a global pandemic that has shaken the world, millions of pulas have been moving around.
Transactions are being made instantly, swift procurements are at play as the country races against time to address and curb the threat of COVID19. During the first weeks of March 2020, before Botswana registered her first cases, Government revealed that P20 million had already been consumed as the country intensified its preventative measures.
When Coronavirus cases arrived in Botswana, efforts elevated from prevention to containment, on the other side adverse economic impacts emanating from travel bans and social distancing intensified.
Government then decided to set up Covid-19 relief fund with a seed capitalization of P2 billion from state coffers. The private sector and able individuals were invited to contribute towards the fund.
There has however been a public outcry calling on prudent management of the fund, accountable and transparent use of the funds and any other public moneys on COVID 19 dealings.
Concerns have been raised that emergency response periods are characterized by instant expenditure, and accelerated procurement procedures, misuse of public funds, deliberate looting and reckless spending – this could find its way and erode government coffers.
Debating on the need for a prolonged State of Emergency Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando expressed discomfort on government accountability system. “We must safe guard against rampant corruption, so that COVID19 P5 billion doesn’t disappear without accountability – under the veil of State of Public Emergency,” he said.
However Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka has assured the nation that serious audits will be conducted to evaluate and ensure that public funds, together with those solicited from good Samaritans was used for the intended purpose.
“We will have specific audit for the relief fund and the structure of emergency procurement, this will be very key in checking if public funds were adequately and rightfully used,” he said on Monday in a press briefing.
So far the Relief Fund has been capitalized by P2 billion from government while around P30 million has been contributed by the private sector, with additional monetary value further coming from government through tax holidays, wage subsidy and loan guarantees.
From the private sector De Beers Group, Botswana’s partner in the diamond business has thus far injected the largest contribution at P20 million followed by Orange Botswana at P5 million. Other contributions came from Turnstar, Stanbic, Bolux Group amongst others, all at P 1 million each.
Minister Matsheka said the first component of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, already capitalized to the tune of P2 billion by government, would be to finance the wage subsidy. The structure of the subsidy would be 50 per cent for basic salaries of employees of affected companies ranging between P1 000 and P2 500 per month for three months with possibility of extension, he explained.
He pointed out that some companies would choose to lay off employees while others would opt for paying workers either 100 per cent or a certain percentage adding that the process would allow companies to apply and demonstrate they had been affected by the pandemic.
Furthermore government set aside P1 billion for a loan guarantee scheme, 80 per cent bonded by the state and 20 per cent by commercial banks, to assist tax compliant businesses. “You are tax compliant if you are not eligible to pay tax but you are more tax compliant if you pay tax,” Minister Matsheka revealed this week.
In addition a guarantee cover of period of 24 months with a maximum loan size of P25 million per borrower. Other measures include tax concessions worth P1 billion, deferment of taxes currently due to March 2021, reduction of VAT refund periods and waiving of the training levy for a period of six months.
Furthermore P200 million has been set aside for purchasing grain reserves, P35 million to augment water supply, P200 million for emergency medical costs and P40 million for counseling services. Government through CEDA has also set aside P40 Million to support SMMEs affected by COVID-19.
Chinaâ€™s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 3% year-on-year to 121.02 trillion yuan ($17.93 trillion) in 2022 despite being mired in various growth pressures, according to data from the National Bureau Statistics.
The annual growth rate beat a median economist forecast of 2.8% as polled by Reuters. The countryâ€™s fourth-quarter GDP growth of 2.9% also surpassed expectations for a 1.8% increase.
In 2022, the Chinese economy encountered more difficulties and challenges than was expected amid a complex domestic and international situation. However, NBS said economic growth stabilized after various measures were taken to shore up growth.
Industrial output rose 3.6% in 2022 over the previous year, while retail sales slightly shrank by 0.2% data show that fixed-asset investment increased 5.1% over 2021, with a 9.1% hike in manufacturing investment but a 10% fall in property investment.
China created 12.06 million new jobs in urban regions throughout the year, surpassing its annual target of 11 million, and officials have stressed the importance of continuing an employment-first policy in 2023.
Meanwhile, China tourism market is a step closer to robust recovery. Tourism operators are in high spirits because the market saw a good chance of a robust recovery during the Spring Festival holiday amid relaxed COVID-19 travel policies.
On January 27, the last day of the seven-day break, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published an encouraging performance report of the tourism market. It said that domestic destinations and attractions received 308 million visits, up 23.1% year-on-year. The number is roughly 88.6% of that in 2019, they year before the pandemic hit.
According to the report, tourism-related revenue generated during the seven-day period was about 375.8 billion yuan ($55.41 billion), a year-on-year rise of 30%. The revenue was about 73% of that in 2019, the Ministry said.
The state of the art jewellery manufacturing plant that has been set up by international diamond and cutting company, KGK Diamonds Botswana will create over 100 jobs, of which 89 percent will be localized.
Local diamond and metal exploration company Tsodilo Resources Limited has negotiated a non-brokered private placement of 2,200, 914 units of the company at a price per unit of 0.20 US Dollars, which will provide gross proceeds to the company in the amount of C$440, 188. 20.
According to a statement from the group, proceeds from the private placement will be used for the betterment of the Xaudum iron formation project in Botswana and general corporate purposes.
The statement says every unit of the company will consist of a common share in the capital of the company and one Common Share purchase warrant of the company.
Each warrant will enable a holder to make a single purchase for the period of 24 months at an amount of $0.20. As per regularity requirements, the group indicates that the common shares and warrants will be subject to a four month plus a day hold period from date of closure.
Tsodilo is exempt from the formal valuation and minority shareholder approval requirements. This is for the reason that the fair market value of the private placement, insofar as it involves the director, is not more than 25% of the companyâ€™s market capitalization.
Tsodilo Resources Limited is an international diamond and metals exploration company engaged in the search for economic diamond and metal deposits at its Bosoto Limited and Gcwihaba Resources projects in Botswana. Â The company has a 100% stake in Bosoto which holds the BK16 kimberlite project in the Orapa Kimberlite Field (OKF) in Botswana.