The ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to the economic stimulus package and national development projects – it has forced the Government to halt some projects earmarked for the current national budget.
The Government has also decided to reduce budgets running into millions for ongoing national projects and those of the ambitious economic stimulus programme (ESP), introduced in 2015 to ‘stimulate the economy. The funds would now be reallocated to finance COVID-19 expenses. This revelation is contained in a document released recently by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, which for the first time gives a breakdown of how most of the development project budget would be either halted or cut and their earmarked funds reallocated to fight COVID-19.
The Government says the money needed to halt and cut budgets from ministries and reallocated to COVID-19 amounts to P2.3 billion. Some of the projects that would be affected by this decision fall under the economic stimulus package programme. Already political and economic experts warn that the adjustments, if not well managed, may deal a big blow to Masisi’s legacy. According to the document, the annual budget for the Ministry of Basic Education will be reduced by P380 000 000 from P1 317 000 000 to P937 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year.
“Specifically, the budget for the following projects are being reduced as follows: Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) Expansion by P50 000 000, ESP Staff Houses by P50 000 000; ESP Maintenance by P50 000 000, Maintenance of Senior Secondary Schools by P75 000 000 and Secondary School Expansion – COVID Classrooms (ERTP) by P155 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started,” states the document.
The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, the infrastructure development proposal will reduce the Ministry’s Infrastructure Development project budget by P25 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P1 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for SSKIA SEZ -Design & Construction of 4 Investors Advance Factories, which has not started.
Another proposal is to reduce the Ministry’s computerisation project budget by P1 500 000 from P9 500 000 to P8 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Design and Development of the Internal MITI Trade and Industry Statistics Database, which has not started.
The other proposal is to reduce the Doing Business Reforms project budget by P2 000 000 from P26 400 000 to P24 400 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Development of an e-Commerce Strategy for Botswana, which has been delayed. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development would have to reduce its social welfare programme budget for the 2021/2022 Development by P120 000 000 from P591 809 298 to P471 809 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.
“The budget for the following programmes: Ipelegeng programme (P100 000 000), Destitute Housing – Remote Area Development Programme (RADP) (P10 000 000) and Countrywide Destitute Housing (P10 000 000) are proposed for reduction,” reads the document. The Ministry of Local Government Infrastructure Investment and Services’ 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P170 200 000 from P528 609 298 to P428 609 298 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.
“The affected projects are Gaborone Transfer Station and Waste Sorting Centre (P10 200 000), Legolas Road (P40 000 000), Mopane-Block 8 Road (P40 000 000), Tlokweng Internal Roads (ERTP) (P40 000 000), and Mogoditshane Internal (ERTP) (P40 000 000),” the document says. The Development of Primary Education Services for the 2021/22 Development budget is to be decreased by P145 000 000 from P554 000 000 to P409 000 000 to meet Government’s urgent requirements related to COVID-19.
“The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following programmes; Primary Schools Facilities Backlog Eradication Project- ERTP – All Districts (P45 000 000) and Construction of New Primary Schools ERTP 7- Districts (P100 000 000),” the document reads in part. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Corporation, which drafted the document, would have its Statistical Survey and Studies programme annual budget reduced due to delays in starting the 2021 Population and Housing Census. According to the document, the programme’s yearly funding decreases by P100 000 000 from P279 294 304 to P179 294 304.
The Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs’ Computerisation programme for 2021/2022 budget need to be decreased by P26 200 000 from P27 200 000 to P1 000 000; the funds were allocated for two projects being Integrated System Project as well as Upgrading of the National Identification System (NIS) and Births & Deaths Registration System whose implementation has been delayed and currently at consultation stage with various stakeholders.
The document also shows that the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security’s 2021/2022 Revision Agriculture Support Schemes budget is expected to be decreased by P200 000 000 from P580 000 000 to P380 000 000 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The affected programmes are: (a) Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development II reduced by P50 000 000), (b) MOA Support reduced by P50 000 000 and (c) Agriculture Infrastructure Development (ERTP) reduced by P100 000 000, to meet Government’s urgent needs relating to COVID-19 pandemic containment and shortfall under the Tertiary Education Financing.
The Ministry’s annual budget would be reduced by P64 500 000 from P313 500 000 to P249 000 000. The affected projects are reduced as follows: upgrading the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources by P50 000 000, Semele Infrastructure by P10 000 000, Refurbishment of Moan Headquarters by P1 500 000 and Refurbishment of Moan Buildings at Extension areas by P3 000 000. Most of the project activities have not started.
The Ministry’s annual Research Support Programme needs to be reduced by P20 000 000 from P40 000 000 to P20 000 000 under the National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI) project to meet Government’s urgent needs relating mainly to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The Ministry of Mineral, Resources, Green Technology and Energy proposal is to reduce the Mineral Resources Exploration programme budget by P5 000 000 from P25 347 911 to P20 347 911 in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. The funds are earmarked for the Rehabilitation of Old Mines, which has been delayed.
“The 2021/2022 Development budget is to be decreased by P4 000 000 from P63 556 400 to P59 556 400 to meet Government’s urgent priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Energy Efficiency project as some activities have not started,” the document shows.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness’ annual budget for this programme needs to be decreased by P2 000 000 to cater to ongoing government commitments largely under COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the Health Care Standard project budget as the project has not started. It says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P26 000 000 from P138 900 000 to P112 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the funding for the construction of a new Health post in Borotsi in (Sefhare-Ramokgonami Constituency) (P3 000 000), Upgrading of Maunatlala Clinic (P3 000 000), Construction of Mini-Health Centres (P10 000 000) and Public Officers’ Housing Initiative (POHI) (P10 000 000). The available balance is sufficient to carry out the implementation of the projects this financial year.
The Ministry’s budget document says the Maunatlala clinic, which falls under the Ministry portfolio, is being reduced by P100 000 000 from P278 350 000 to P178 350 000 from the ministry’. “The proposal is to reduce the budget for Upgrading of Gumare Hospital (70 beds) (P30 000 000), which is currently at the design stage. The other project is the Upgrading of Tutume Hospital (70 beds) (P70 000 000). The drawings for the project are currently being assessed for adequacy and functionality by the Ministry,” it says.
Concerning the Ministry’s computerisation, the document says the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P12 000 000. The proposal is to reduce the Quality Information Management System (P10 000 000) and e-Health (P2 000 000) projects. The project has not started yet. The document says the facilitation of elections under the Independent of Electoral Commission (IEC) was reduced by P4 000 000 from P10 612 440 to P6 612 440. The proposal is to reduce the Review of electoral processes (P2 000 000) and Automation of Records Management (P2 000 000) projects. The project has been delayed for Botswana National Archives and Records Services (BNARS) to assess automation rollout readiness.
The document speaks to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology (MOTE) ‘s Research and Development Programme. It says the 2021/2022 annual budget provision for the programme will need to be reduced by P10 000 000 from P43 500 000 to P33 500 000 to meet Governments’ urgent needs related to COVID-19 response. “The funds were allocated for the Provision of Staff Residential Accommodation for Directorate on Corruption, and Economic Crime (DCEC) project and construction has not yet started,” the document states.
For the Ministry of Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration computerisation programme, the document says, “the E-Cabinet project entails digitising Cabinet proceedings and records. The project’s 2021/2022 annual budget provision is P4 000 000”. However, the project has not started pending a detailed scope of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The project is being delayed to augment funds for COVID-19 related costs.
The document says the annual budget of the Social Protection and Preparedness programme is being reduced by P11 500 000 from P53 500 000 to P42 000 000 to augment funds for COVID–19 related costs. It says the available balance is sufficient to complete the ongoing projects under this programme.
The annual budgeting for strengthening the counter-terrorism and fusion agency programme is reduced by P42 620 000 from P46 396 130 to P3 776 130 to augment funds for COVID–19 related interventions. The document states that the document adds that the project implementation for procurement of ICT Infrastructure has not started.
As for the Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, one of them dubbed broadening the base adding that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P7 000000 from P77 900 000 to P70 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs largely elated to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing.
It says the proposal is to reduce the provision for the Development and Marketing of a Swapping Tourism Trail (P1 000 000), District Monuments Development Programme (P1 000 000), Botanical Garden (P5 000 000) and Development of Campsites in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and Chutes Game Reserves (P2 000 00).
For the Ministry of Minerals project, the document says that one of the programmes is being reduced by P80 000 000 from P181 000 000 to P101 000 000 to meet the Government’s priority needs primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal, the report says, is to reduce the provision for the Kasane Kazungula Redevelopment Project.
It says that under the Wildlife Management Species project, the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P4 000 000 from P47 250 000 to P43 250 000 to meet the Governments’ new objectives related to COVID-19. The proposal is to reduce the Water Reticulation (P2 000 000) and Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) Camps (P2 000 000) projects.
The document says Environmental Protection under the same Ministry. The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P6 500 000 from P31 000 000 to P24 500 000 to meet the Government’s urgent commitments primarily related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. The proposal is to reduce the Greening of MENT (Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Tourism) and DMS headquarters building (P2 000 000), Establishment of a Centralised Hazardous Waste Treatment & Disposal Facility (P2 500 000) and Botswana Early Warning Hydrological system (P2 000 000).
The document shows that the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture will have to reduce its budget earmarked for its infrastructure development. “The annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P33 000 000 from P41 145 000 to P8 145 000. The proposal is to reduce the Francistown Stadium Roof project. The Ministry has written to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing (MIH) to assist in the facilitation of the project,” the document shows.
As for infrastructure maintenance, the Ministry of Housing and Development budget will also have to be reduced. The document says that the annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P20 000 000 from P157 079 930 to P137 079 930. “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the following projects: The Mahalapye Department of Facilities Management (P3 500 000), Refurbishment Gaborone Industrial Department of Facilities Management office (P3 000 000), Refurbishment Shake Department of Facilities Management (DFM) office (P4 500 000), Refurbishment Broad Hurst DFM office (P3 000 000) and Government Building Consultancy (P6 000 000),” shows the report.
It says the annual budget of the computerisation programme is being reduced by P14 000 000 to meet Government’s priorities related to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main. The proposal is to reduce the provision for the ICT Equipment (P5 000 000), Automation of MIH Services (P1 000 000) and Local Area Network (LAN) Upgrade (P8 000 000) projects.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications’ infrastructure budget would be reduced, which would lower the annual budget of this programme P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet the Government’s urgent needs related principally to COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing. “The proposal is to reduce the provision for the Nata-Kasane road (P20 000 000), Francistown-Nata-Maun Mohembo (P80 000 000), Gaborone Eastern-By-Pass (P50 000 000), A1 Dulling (P50 000 000), Palapye-Matins Drift (P32 000 000), Mmathethe-Bray-Werra road (P15 000, 000),” according to the document.
It says the railway infrastructure’s annual budget of this programme is being reduced by P247 000 000 from P1 338 356 000 to P 1 141 356 000 to meet Government’s priorities mainly related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing. The budget would be reduced for the following projects: Trans- Kalahari Railway Link (P15 000 000), Mmamabula-Lephalale Railway Link, Optimal Utilisation of the Dry port at Walvis Bay (P20 000 000) and Development of the Inland Dry Ports (P20 000 000). Some of the projects have experienced delays in implementation due to COVID-19 protocols that continue to be enforced.
The Ministry of Defence Justice and Security’s project that will be affected is the strengthening of Botswana Police Services as the 2021/22 Development budget is being decreased by P65 000 000 from P411 900 000 to P346 900 000 to meet Government’s urgent needs related to COVID-19 and Tertiary Education financing.
The document is to reduce the proposal is to reduce the budget for the following projects: Construction of Posts and Base Camps (P10 000 000), Provision of Staff Houses (P40 000 000), Block 10 Police Station (Office Block) (P5 000 000) and Letlhakeng Police Station and Houses (P10 000 000).
“The 2021/22 strengthening of prisons services development budget is being decreased by P25 000 000 from P155 505 587 to P130 505 587 to meet Government’s binding commitments under the national COVID-19 response and Tertiary Education financing in the main. The proposal is to reduce the budget for the following: Fencing for Prison Facilities (P10 000 000); Staff Houses – Department of Prisons (P10 000 000); and Construction of High-Security Wing at Thane Prison (P5 000 000),” the document reads.
As for the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development facilities programme needs to be decreased by P21 000 000 from P99 654 000 to P78 654 000. “The proposal is to reduce the budget for the Rapid Skill Centres (P12 000 000) and Construction of Emergency Evacuation Access at Botswana National Productivity Centre (BNPC) Hostels (P9 000 000). BNPC is at the initial stages of procurement.
The annual budget of the computerisation programme needs to be decreased by P1 800 000 from P21 937 000 to P20 137 000. These funds will be sourced from the BNPC Computerization project (P1 800 000), whose implementation has been delayed due to COVID-19 protocols,” the document says.
The Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology will also have its annual budget for the research programme to be decreased by P10 000 000 from P112 473 300 to P102 473 300 to cater for Government’s urgent needs mainly related to COVID-19 national response and Tertiary Education financing.
The document says the proposal is to reduce the Implementation of Research, Science, Technology (RST) and Innovation (Plan) – Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) Review; Technology Foresighting; Square Kilometer Array (SKA); and Space Science Strategy, whose implementation has been delayed. Apart from the more than P2.3 billion requested from Government, the Government had announced that it had set aside P2 billion and other funds from the private sector and other donors, which amounted to millions of Pula to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”