The COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting high and rising human costs worldwide, and the necessary protection measures are severely impacting economic activity. As a result of the pandemic, the global economy is projected to contract sharply by 3 percent in 2020, much worse than during the 2008–09 financial crises. This is according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook report released this week.
Gita Gopinath, IMF Economic Counsellor says the world has changed dramatically in the three months since the last World Economic Outlook in January beginning of this year. “A pandemic scenario had been raised as a possibility in previous economic policy discussions, but none of us had a meaningful sense of what it would look like on the ground and what it would mean for the economy,” she said on Tuesday when delivering the report through IMF digital platforms.
The IMF Economist further said, “We now encounter a grim reality, where exponential growth of contagion means 100 infected individuals become 10,000 in a matter of a few days. Tragically, many human lives are being lost and the virus continues to spread rapidly across the globe. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the medical professionals and first responders who are working tirelessly to save lives, this crisis is like no other, and the shock is large.”
She reiterated that the output loss associated with Corona emergency and related containment measures likely dwarfs the losses that triggered the global financial crisis. “Like in a war or a political crisis, there is continued severe uncertainty about the duration and intensity of the shock, under current circumstances there is a very different role for economic policy,” Gopinath said.
In a baseline scenario which assumes that the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020 and containment efforts can be gradually unwound, the global economy is projected to grow by 5.8 percent in 2021 as economic activity normalizes, helped by policy support.
Advanced economies are projected to pick up by 4.5 percent in 2021 after a significant contraction of 6.1 percent this year. For emerging markets and developing countries decline in economic growth is projected for a slight contraction of 1.0 percent in 2020 and a significant rise of 6.6 percent in 2021.
The global lender has underscored that effective policies are essential to forestall the possibility of worse outcomes, and the necessary measures to reduce contagion and protect lives are an important investment in long-term human and economic health.
IMF says because the economic fallout is acute in specific sectors, policymakers will need to implement substantial targeted fiscal, monetary, and financial market measures to support affected households and businesses domestically.
The Executive leadership of the International Monetary Fund says internationally, strong multilateral cooperation is essential to overcome the effects of Corona virus including helping financially constrained countries facing twin health and funding shocks, and for channeling aid to countries with weak health care systems. Gita Gopinath highlighted that there is extreme uncertainty around the global growth forecast.
She explained that the economic fallout depends on factors that interact in ways that are hard to predict, including the pathway of the pandemic, the intensity and efficiency of containment efforts, the extent of supply disruptions, the repercussions of the dramatic tightening in global financial market conditions, shifts in spending patterns, behavioral changes, such as people avoiding shopping malls and public transportation, confidence effects, and volatile commodity prices.
She added that many countries face a multi-layered crisis comprising a health shock, domestic economic disruptions, plummeting external demand, capital flow reversals, and a collapse in commodity prices. “Risks of worse outcome predominate.Effective policies are essential to forestall worse outcomes. Necessary measures to reduce contagion and protect lives will take a short-term toll on economic activity but should also be seen as an important investment in long-term human and economic health,” she said.
IMF says the immediate priority should be to contain the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, especially by increasing health care expenditures to strengthen the capacity and resources of the health care sector while adopting measures that reduce contagion. Experts say economic policies will also need to cushion the impact of the decline in activity on people, firms, and the financial system; reduce persistent scarring effects from the unavoidable severe slowdown; and ensure that the economic recovery can begin quickly once the pandemic fades.
Such actions will help maintain economic relationships throughout the shutdown and are essential to enable activity to gradually normalize once the pandemic abates and containment measures are lifted. The fiscal response in affected countries has been swift and sizable in many advanced economies such as Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Many emerging market and developing economies such as China, Indonesia, and South Africa have also begun providing or announcing significant fiscal support to heavily impacted sectors and workers. Global think tanks have reiterated that fiscal measures will need to be scaled up if the stoppages to economic activity are persistent, or the pickup in activity as restrictions lifted are too weak.
Economies facing financing constraints to combat the pandemic and its effects may require external support. Broad-based fiscal stimulus can preempt a steeper decline in confidence, lift aggregate demand, and avert an even deeper downturn.
Gita Gopinath however said it would most likely be more effective once the outbreak fades and people are able to move about freely. The significant actions of large central banks in recent weeks include monetary stimulus and liquidity facilities to reduce systemic stress. “These actions have supported confidence and contribute to limiting the amplification of the shock, thus ensuring that the economy is better placed to recover,” she said.
The synchronized actions can magnify their impact on individual economies and will also help generate the space for emerging market and developing economies to use monetary policy to respond to domestic cyclical conditions. Gopinath added that supervisors should also encourage banks to renegotiate loans to distressed households and firms while maintaining a transparent assessment of credit risk.
Global growth is expected to rebound to 5.8 percent in 2021, well above trend, reflecting the normalization of economic activity from very low levels. IMF says the rebound in 2021 depends critically on the pandemic fading in the second half of 2020, allowing containment efforts to be gradually scaled back and restoring consumer and investor confidence.
Significant economic policy actions have already been taken across the world, focused on accommodating public health care requirements, while limiting the amplification to economic activity and the financial system. The projected recovery assumes that these policy actions are effective in preventing widespread firm bankruptcies, extended job losses, and system-wide financial strains. As with the size of the downturn, there is extreme uncertainty around the strength of the recovery.
The International Monetary Fund says some aspects that underpin the rebound may not materialize, and worse global growth outcomes are possible for example, a deeper contraction in 2020 and a shallower recovery in 2021 depending on the pathway of the pandemic and the severity of the associated economic and final.
Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a 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.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.
Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.
CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.
CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.
“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.
“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”
Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities. We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.”
CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour. Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.