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More tariff hikes as Gov’t plans to stop BPC, WUC subsidies

The catastrophic economic mess occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic has pushed government to embark on an unprecedented cost containment undertaking – discontinuing subsidies for some parastatals.

This is aimed at managing the little remaining funds after COVID-19 wiped out billions of pulas projected for 2020/21 financial year, and further disrupting revenue streams for the entire remaining part of National Development Plan 11.

The diamond sales window alone, which is Botswana‘s main cash stream is likely to deliver a little P6 billion this year, against the initial projected revenue of P20 billion, mirroring a whopping 60 % decline.

Last week Government through Ministry of Finance released a draft recovery plan intended to stabilize  the economy , balance expenditure with depressed revenue , and keep the national  fiscal fabric afloat until markets and revenue streams bounce back to glory, something which global experts anticipate to happen somewhere around  mid 2021.

Coming out clearly from the Economic Recovery & Transformation Plan (ERTP) which was prepared by the treasury with input from Bank of Botswana, University of Botswana and Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), is the intention to embark on massive domestic revenue mobilization.

This according to government officials will be undertaken to relieve government of spending burden and free up resources for major infrastructural and investment projects that can pump significant stimuli into the national economic grid.

Reducing funding to parastatals and government agencies has been underscored as one of those avenues earmarked to save Botswana’s deteriorating revenue basket.

On an annual basis government spends billions on parastatals and agencies across different ministries. These are amongst others, research institutions, government think tanks, investment promotion agencies and regulatory bodies.

Amongst the organizations resourced by taxpayers through subvention are State Owned Enterprises, in particular those providing essential services like water and electricity have been receiving significant backing from Government through tariff subsidies.

However in the highly anticipated new expenditure blueprint, these parastatals will have to fend for themselves. Botswana Power Corporation(BPC) and Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) have been singled out as some quasi-governmental organizations that will no longer have it easy with receiving money from government, with suggestion that they  will have to seek credit lines if need arise.

“Parastatals such as BPC and WUC, with high capital expenditure needs, can potentially raise their own funds from capital markets by borrowing to finance their new projects,” reads the economic recovery plan.

The document further stated, “But these parastatals need to be able to charge cost-reflective tariffs to become financially self-sustaining and eliminate dependence on transfers and subsidies from government.”

BPC receives  tariff subsidy from government in the average region of P1 billion annually to cover operational costs and cushion consumers against high tariffs while Water Utilities occasionally receives  around P350 million pula depending  on dynamics of a particular financial year.

This year just after COVID-19 took its toll, Government announced a 22 % increase in electricity tariff.

The regulator Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) explained that the tariff increase was to ensure cost reflective, affordable and appropriately priced service that supports BPC operational costs so that the corporation can continue fulfilling its mandate of delivering quality, reliable and sustainable power supply to its customers.

Just after Botswana emerged out of a month long lockdown, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water & Sanitation Services, Bonolo Khumotaka  revealed  that Water Utilities had lost over P100 million from unpaid bills.

She reiterated that Water Utilities Corporation was therefore suffocating from overwhelming operating costs that are not recovered.

To rectify this perennial dependence on government capital injection the economic recovery plan wants consumers to pay more.  “Electricity and Water tariffs will be progressively raised to market levels within a specified period of about 3 – 5 years.”

“This should reduce the need for government financial support and allow these corporations to raise funds in the market on the strength of their own balance sheets,” observed officials at the Ministry of Finance.

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Dark days as Aviation industry collapses

22nd November 2020
Air Botswana

As the Aviation industry takes a COVID-19 pummeling, for Africa the numbers are staggering, Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac has observed.

Speaking recently at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has been hosting an Annual General Assembly, de Juniac said traffic is down 89% and revenue loses are expected to reach $6 billion. And this figure is likely to be revised downwards in the next forecast to be released later this month. “But the impact is much broader. The consequences of the breakdown in connectivity are severe,” he surmised.

According to de Juniac, five million African livelihoods are at risk while aviation-supported GDP could fall by as much as $37 billion. That’s a 58% fall.

“We have a health crisis. And it is evolving into a jobs and economic disaster. Fixing it is beyond the scope of what the industry can do by itself.”

He said they need governments to act, “And act fast to prevent a calamity.”

“We are in the middle of the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced. As leaders of Africa’s aviation industry, you know that firsthand. Airline revenues have collapsed. Fleets are grounded. And you are taking extreme actions just to survive. We all support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our duty and we will prevail. But policymakers must know that this has come at a great cost to jobs, individual freedoms and entire economies,” he said.

de Juniac used the AFRA general assembly platform to amplify IATA’s call for governments to address two top priorities: “The first is unblocking committed financial relief. Airlines will go bust without it. Already four African carriers have ceased operations and two are in administration. Without financial relief, many others will follow.”

Over US$31 billion in financial support has been pledged by African governments, international finance bodies and other institutions, including the African Development Bank, the African Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Unfortunately de Juniac pointed out, in his words, “Pledges do not pay the bills. And little of this funding has materialized. And let me emphasize that, while we are calling for relief for aviation, this is an investment in the future of the continent. It will need financially viable airlines to support the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The second priority, according to IATA is to safely re-open borders using testing and without quarantines.

“People have not lost their desire to travel. Border closures and travel restrictions make it effectively impossible. Forty-four countries in Africa have opened their borders to regional and international air travel. In 20 of these countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Who would travel under such conditions?” de Juniac quizzed rhetorically.

He suggested that countries should adopt systematic testing before departure provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COVID-19.

He admitted that it’s a frightening time for everyone, not least the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a functioning airline industry. Right now, de Juniac said there essentially is no airline industry. He cited the example that China’s largest airlines sound optimistic, but in a vague way. “They gave no hard data about current yields, loads, or forward bookings, discussing only developments in 2019. Boy, does that seem like ages ago.”

Aviation’s darkest days

The IATA CEO said these are the darkest days in aviation’s history. “But as leaders of this great industry I know that you will share with me continued confidence in the future.

Our customers want to fly. They desire the exploration that aviation enables. They need to do international business that aviation facilitates. And they long to reunite with family and loved ones.”

He said the industry will, no doubt, be changed by this crisis, but flying will return. “Airlines will be back in the skies. The resilience of our industry has been proven many times. We will rise again,” he said.

de Juniac said Aviation is a business of freedom. “For Africa that is the freedom to develop and thrive. And that is not something people on this continent will forget or lose their desire for.”

 

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Inflation increased to 2.2% in October 2020

22nd November 2020

Headline inflation increased from 1.8 percent in September to 2.2 percent in October 2020, but remained below the lower bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent, and lower than the 2.4 percent in October 2019.

According to Statistics Botswana, the increase in inflation between September and October 2020 mainly reflects the upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices {Transport (from -3.9 to -2.5 percent)}, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.29 percentage points.

“There was also a rise in the annual price increase for most categories of goods and services: Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (from 6.2 to 6.6 percent); Clothing and Footwear (from 2.5 to 2.7 percent); Communications (from 0.6 to 0.9 percent); Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels (from 6.4 to 6.6 percent); Recreation and Culture (from 0 to 0.2 percent); Miscellaneous Goods and Services (from 0.7 to 0.9 percent); Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (from 4.2 to 4.3 percent); and Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Maintenance (from 2 to 2.1 percent). Inflation remained stable for: Education (4.7 percent); Restaurants and Hotels (3 percent); and Health (1.5 percent). Similarly, the 16 percent trimmed mean inflation and inflation excluding administered prices rose from 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent to 2.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in the same period.”

[Source: Bank of Botswana]

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BDC injects further P64 million into Kromberg & Schubert

22nd November 2020
BDC

Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has to date pumped a total of P100 million into the expansion of Kromberg and Schubert, a car harnessing manufacturing company, operating from Gaborone Old Naledi.

At the official ground breaking ceremony of the company‘s new warehouse today, BDC Managing Director, Cross Kgosidiile revealed the wholly state owned investment corporation has pumped P64 million into the expansion which entailed building of the new warehouse.

Kgosidiile explained that this follows another expansion project which was successfully launched in 2017, in which BDC invested P36 million, bringing the total investment into Kromberg at P100 million. The MD also acknowledged Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) as a partner in the project and for having facilitated the acquisition of the land.

 

Giving a keynote address, Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry, Peggy Serame highlighted the importance of infrastructural development in growing the local manufacturing sector and transforming the economy of Botswana.

Serame underscored the value of strategic partnerships between Government and the private sector, noting that when the two work together and pull together in one direction results will be evident and jobs will be created.

“With the prevailing conditions of depressed economy occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, government is reliant on entities like BDC to bring in revenue and acceleration of private sector development in line with its mandate and strategic plan. This plan is supported by the need to invest in growth sectors and accelerate the implementation of the Economic Diversification Drive,” Serame said.

Minister Serame noted that the partnership between BDC and Kromberg & Schubert begun in 2017 when the P36 million, 4100 square metres factory expansion for the company was launched.

 

She said the launch of the 7320 square meters factory expansion, to be built at the tune of P64 million signals the continuation of the good partnership between the two companies.

 

“I must commend BDC for their continuous efforts to build partnerships with the private sector geared towards contributing to economic development of this country.”

 

Minister Serame also added that BITC through its robust investor aftercare programme continues to provide value added and red carpet to Kromberg and Schubert under their One Stop Service Centre.

 

“In this regard BITC facilitated acquisition of land to enable this expansion. I therefore would like to commend BITC for their timely facilitation to make this expansion possible,” the minister said.

 

Kromberg & Schubert was incorporated in Botswana in 2009; The Company has grown to asset its position as a significant player in the regional automotive industry value chain.

 

The company is also a critical player in the economic development of Botswana, it currently employs 2100 Batswana across its operations. Kromberg exports on average P2.0 billion worth of goods annually, contributing significantly to foreign exchange.

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