BoB inflation forecast deemed myopic
A research paper released on Monday has exposed Bank of Botswana(BoB)s inflation forecast model as not having far reaching predictions and its accuracy only relevant for a short time.
The research titled Evaluation of the Performance of the Bank of Botswanas Inflation Forecasting Model was conducted by central banks Research & Financial Stability Department
It was authored by Deputy Director, Innocent Molalapata and economists Lesego Molefhe, Lizzy Sediakgotla and Daniel Balondi.
According to the quartet, to support its forward-looking monetary policy framework, BoB produces inflation forecasts using a quarterly projection model, known as the Core-Model. The inflation forecast provides guidance on the appropriate monetary policy interventions necessary to achieve and maintain the Banks primary objective of price stability, they wrote.
The economists further said it is critical to have a model that produces inflation forecasts that do not deviate significantly from the actual data, without justifiable accounting, as it can misinform policymaking.
According to the results, on average, the Banks Model has a good forecasting accuracy in the short term, however the model has a low predictive power of medium-term inflation movements, reflecting higher uncertainty associated with economic events in the distant future. Regarding prediction bias, the Model tends to under-predict inflation, which is a result of changing economic conditions domestically and externally, said the quartet.
The four brains merged to produce a paper titled Evaluation of the Performance of the Bank of Botswanas Inflation Forecasting Model which sought to evaluate the performance of the central banks inflation forecasting model over a 10-year period, from December 2008, a period of the Great Recession, to December 2018.
While they were putting the central bank policy practice under the knife, the objectives of the study are to assess the Models forecast bias by employing the Mean Forecast Error and determination of the size of the forecast error using the Mean Absolute Forecast Error (MAFE).
The researchers explained that BoB uses a forward-looking monetary policy framework that is guided by a forecasting and policy analysis system (FPAS). According to them, the FPAS is the Banks main policy analysis and forecasting framework while the Core-Model, which forms part of the FPAS, is used to produce medium-term forecasts for macroeconomic variables, such as inflation and the output gap.
The CoreModel is based on Botswanas monetary policy transmission mechanism. It captures the essential macroeconomic relationships, primarily the impact of monetary policy on output and inflation. The model provides a comprehensive view on future economic developments and possible policy actions necessary to achieve the Banks inflation objective.
It also explores possible alternative scenarios to the baseline forecast. Given the Banks forward looking monetary policy framework, forecasts from the Core-Model are used as input into deliberations of monetary policy formulation and direction by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), further explained the economists.
Going sharp in their analysis knife, the economists said the Core-Model is calibrated in accordance with the behaviour of key relationships in the monetary policy transmission process, therefore the model output is expected to be a close match to actual data, assuming an adequately functioning transmission mechanism, ceteris paribus.
However, according to the four experts, it is not easy to have a model that is able to produce forecasts that accurately fit actual or realised data due to, among others, future unanticipated changes in the structure of the economy; model misspecification; historical data measurement errors; inaccurate parameter estimation or calibration; volatility in the analysed variables; inappropriate policy design and decision; as well as domestic and external shocks in the economy.
As the quartets thesis was reminiscent of the monetary policy practice dating back to the Great Recession, they said some of the shocks are generated by financial imbalances, as was evident during the 2008/9 global financial crisis, as well as lack of congruence of monetary, financial stability and fiscal policies towards achieving macroeconomic stability.
Meanwhile, a model that produces an inflation forecast path that deviates significantly from the actual data, without justifiable accounting, is not desirable as it can misinform policy making. In practice, it is essential for forecasts to be approximate to observe values as that provides reliable information that can be useful in guiding policy formulation and implementation.
In this context, it is important to assess the forecasting ability of the Core-Model regularly in order to identify and attend to discrepancies, if any, and where necessary, enhance its forecasting ability, said the four researchers.
When delving into the Forecast Errors for Headline Inflation the four brains said statistically, on average, with the exception of the first two periods, BoB has consistently under predicted both short-term and medium-term headline inflation for the period December 2008 to December 2018.
The economists further elaborated that the bias is more pronounced in the medium-term forecasts, precisely from the 5th quarter to the 8th quarter. Under-prediction of short-term inflation (for four quarters) is, however, relatively small at around 0.05 percentage points on average, while medium term inflation forecasts have on average been 0.69 percentage points lower than actual inflation, they said.
Last week, after maintaining the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent, BoB changed its inflation forecast of October which projected inflation to revert back to the objective range in the third quarter of 2021. The fresh inflation forecast which was done last week during an MPC meeting is that inflation will revert to the objective range of 3-6 percent sooner, in the second quarter of next year.
According to Head of Research & Financial Stability Department, Tshokologo Kganetsano, the quick reversion of inflation is due to the increase in transport fares, adjustment in fuel prices and postal office tariffs. However RMB Botswana researchers who use a model different than that of BoB, said the effect of Kganetsanos stated price movements is unlikely to see inflation average beyond 3 percent in 2021. They expect price growth to register an average of 1.9 percent in 2020 and 2.5 percent in 2021.
The demand side is expected to act as a drag on inflation in 2021 as the bulk of Botswanas work force will be faced with unemployment challenges as businesses continue to reel from the effects of the pandemic, said the researchers. The RMB Botswana researchers said they expect the effect of upside pressures on the headline figure to remain limited, coupled with an uncertain economic outlook as a result of the disruption caused by covid-19.
RMB Botswana explained that the model they use is a bottom-up approach which is based on the baskets and data from Statistics Botswana. We track each basket and stress it according to any recent or upcoming developments-so in the case of transport, we observe international prices and the likelihood of BERA will adjust local prices. If the likelihood is high enough, then we factor into the model.
Basically we do this for all the baskets and since they are weighing according to what Stats Bots provides, we are then able to provide an annual forecast. This is then done according to different scenarios-in the case some of our expectations dont happen or we have surprise announcements. As the year goes along, we keep amending to incorporate any changes. For longer term forecasts, beyond two years, we use a regression and make adjustments to the outcome based on our research houses expectations as well as regional outlooks, explained a researcher at RMB Botswana after their inflation forecast.
The other side of the coin
The four researchers who studied Botswanas Performance of BoBs inflation forecasting model have reached to a conclusion that, according to the results from a rolling four-year sample of forecast errors using MAFE, the forecasting performance of the model used by BoB has improved with time.
According to the research quartet, the innovations in the model structure, constant engagements between the Modelling Team and Monetary Policy Technical Committee members and Sector Specialists, as well as capacity building programmes on modelling and forecasting which the Bank continues to invest heavily in.
In the conclusion paragraph, the four economists said BoBs forecasting framework has a high level of precision, particularly in the short term. However precision of the inflation forecasts in the medium term is limited by increased uncertainty associated with the longer horizon, they further stated in the report.
The researchers said BoB is not addressing the issue of the forecasts being less far reaching, but this is partly addressed by updates of forecasts for successive MPC meetings and Monetary Policy Reports (MPRs). They said continual efforts are being made to improve the inflation forecast performance in both the short- and medium-term.
As part of ongoing improvements to the forecasting ability, since the last half of 2017, an assumption on the rate of crawl for the ensuing year is made, compared to the earlier approach in which the rate of crawl was assumed to be constant, said the researchers.
The four researcher further advised that going forward it is crucial for BoB to continue to invest in capacity improvements to facilitate updating of the model (and its calibration) to reflect the evolving structure of the economy through infusion of relevant methods and skills inputs.
Another advice was in recognition of the influence of administered prices on inflation, the four saying it is important for BoB to broaden relations with all stakeholders in order to be informed of impending changes in administrative prices, to inform both forecasts and policy posture.
Engagement of the MPC by the forecasting team in the formulation of initial conditions, external assumptions and alternative scenarios must be strengthened further and should include a discussion of the policy rate.
Finally, where possible, BoB should strive to address impediments to monetary policy transmission, particularly the credit channel, to enhance the effectiveness of the transmission of monetary policy. High precision and reliable forecasts are important for the transparency and predictability of monetary policy, which enhances policy credibility, said the researchers.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (âGritâ) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Companyâs total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Companyâs share price.
The statement explained that Gritâs sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
âGrit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholdersâ LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Gritâs already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
âWe are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,â Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. âWe continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,â Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
âIn accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,â said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices.Â Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
âCommunity empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,â said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Â Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
âAs a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economyâs productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,â said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.