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MPs approve P2.7 billion World Bank loan

MPs-approve-P2.7-billion-World-Bank-loan

This week, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame sought from Parliament approval to borrow US$250 million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), a World Bank Group institution. 

Explaining the rationale behind the loan, Serame said that for this financial year, a projected deficit of P6.03 billion or 3.0 percent of GDP was expected during the presentation of budget speech in February earlier this year. However, Serame explained that figures have gone up with an estimated deficit of up to P7.75 billion or 3.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In the budget speech presented by the then Minister, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka government indicated that the financing of this anticipated deficit was going to be through a combination of domestic borrowing through the issuance of Government bonds and Treasury Bills external borrowing, mainly from the multilateral development banks.

Dr. Matsheka explained that this is because the option to draw down from the previously accumulated Government savings is no longer available. On Thursday, Serame explained that considering all these factors Ministry of Finance approached the World Bank for a budget support loan amounting to USD 250 million (approximately P2.7 billion) to finance part of the projected budget deficit, subject to approval by Parliament.

She submitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in reduced revenues and increased pressure on the expenditures, with budget deficits anticipated in the medium term. Under the Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Programme, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) Loan Authorisation Bill, Serame threw the propositions to lawmakers.

She explained that the loan would support three objectives being; supporting COVID-19 pandemic response, strengthening private sector development, and promoting resilience of green recovery.

Serame informed Parliament that the government had finalized loan negotiations with the World Bank. The negotiated terms and conditions for the loan are a Front-end fee of 0.25 percent, which will be paid from the loan proceeds, and a commitment fee of 0.25 percent on undisbursed balances.

In addition, the conditions include a Variable reference rate of 6 months US$ LIBOR, which is currently at 0.16 percent plus a variable spread (based on World Bank funding costs, which is currently at 0.52 percent). This then results in a total interest rate of 0.68 percent. The loan will run for a ten-year maturity tenor inclusive of a three-year grace period.

Justifying the need for borrowing, Serame told lawmakers that in terms of Botswana’s debt legislation, which is the Stocks, Bonds and Treasury Bills Act, 2005, Cap 56:07, the requested loan will still leave the country’s external debt exposure within the statutory limits of 20 percent of GDP. External debt to GDP stands at 10.16 percent, while domestic debt is at 10.99 percent of GDP, all within the 40 percent of GDP statutory limit.

APPROVAL FROM WORLD BANK 

On the 11th of June this year, the World Bank, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) parent company, announced that Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan.

The Washington DC headquartered global lender explained that The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) would support Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic relief bolstering resilience to future shocks.

This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” said World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly in June.

“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to the diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy,” the World Bank said.

The Bank explained that the operation provides financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.

It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs).

Furthermore, the program will help Botswana build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase renewable energy production by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.

The World Bank uses dPLs to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.

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Mental health concern amid COVID-19 pandemic 

24th September 2021
Mental Health

With the advent of COVID-19, mental health and psychosocial has become a major concern around the world. There is   significant increase in the rates of stress, anxiety and depression globally.

In creating awareness and support on mental health and psychosocial support, the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP) hosted a virtual regional mental health and Psychosocial Support Forum (MHPSS).

The MHPSS Forum brings together stakeholders from different sectors providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support services particularly to children, youth, families and the workforce, as well as Academia, International Cooperating Partners, Community Implementing Partners and the media.

It aims to facilitate learning, information exchange and advocacy to promote mainstreaming of Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (PSS) into policies, programmes, services and funding priorities for children and youth in Botswana.

The event is a partnership between The Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development, through the Department of Social Protection (DSP), and the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), with Project Concern International Botswana (PCI) and Marang Child Care Network Trust (MCCNT).

The event is held every two years, and Botswana started hosting the Forum in 2014. The theme for this year is ‘Innovate, Integrate, Thrive,’ which prompts us to find new ways to survive the COVID-19 pandemic which we can mainstream into our daily activities.

The Northern Regional Forum in Mahalapye was held on 17-19 August 2021 while the Southern Regional Forum  in  Ghanzi, was  from 21-23 September 2021. Findings from both regions will be presented at the National Forum to be held in Kasane on 12-14 October 2021. The event is held in collaboration with local authorities in each region.

The event is structured in this manner: The first day is a Special Session for Children, where children in the region will talk about the challenges they face that affect their mental health, how they cope and what they think can be done to support them.

The second day is the official opening where the lead ministry gives a keynote address, and presentations from service providers in the region. The third and last day is abstract presentations from different speakers on thematic areas under the theme.

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GMES & Africa Southern Africa to hold a Regional Stakeholder Workshop on Earth Observation Technologies

24th September 2021
GMESAfrica

The Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will hold a Hybrid GMES and Africa Regional workshop from 27 – 29 September 2021, at Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Initiative is a programme formed out of mutual cooperation between Africa and Europe with a focus on Earth Observation (EO) systems.

It was formed to respond to the global need to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security by providing information to policymakers, scientists, private sector and the public. GMES and Africa aims to promote development of local capacities, institutional, human and technical resources for access to and exploitation of Earth Observation (EO) based services on an operational basis for sustainable development in Africa.

In its first phase, GMES has funded 13 consortiums in Africa. In Southern African, SASSCAL-led consortia is implementing the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Service for Transboundary Basins in Southern Africa (WeMAST) Project while CSIR is leading the Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (MARCO[1]South). SASSCAL Members of the consortium include the University of Botswana, University of Zambia, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of the Western Cape and Midlands State University, South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Zambia.

CSIR led consortium includes ABALOBI, Benguela Current Convention, Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, National Sea Rescue Institute, University of Dar Es Salaam, University of Eduardo Mondlane and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association).

The workshop will also provide an opportunity to promote and encourage mutual exchanges in terms of sharing best practices, knowledge and experiences as well as allow for the exchange of information and knowledge on new and innovative Earth Observation technologies developed under the programmes and their alignment with the region’s sustainable development strategies.

The workshop will also reveal trends in the use of earth observation data to monitor and assess wetland conditions, threats to sustainable utilisation of wetland resources as well as updating stakeholders on how climate change variability and drought is continually affecting Sub-Saharan Africa’s surface water resources.

The workshop’s envisaged outcomes will be to ensure shared knowledge and understanding of the new and innovative Earth Observation technologies, and their application to society. Expected to visit is a broader pool of international delegates from the two continents (Europe and Africa) both physically and virtual.

This includes the member countries policy makers, line ministers from the SADC countries, public and private sector stakeholders, implementers, Basin Commissions, researchers, and any other stakeholders whose activities are related to coastal areas, rivers, and their ecosystems.

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Vendors ready for the Tobacco Control Bill

21st September 2021
Vendors

Some vendors have been misled
Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce

Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods

“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.

Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.

The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.

Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.

I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.

The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.

Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.

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