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IMF urges Gov’t on fiscal reforms

Publishing Date : 18 June, 2018


It is crucial that Botswana undertakes revenue and expenditure reforms alongside policies review to reduce income inequality, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recommended through a report released last Friday.  

The report came on the back of thorough engagements with stakeholders, authorities, economic and financial entities and key policy makers, amongst them Finance Minister, Kenneth Matambo and Bank of Botswana Governor, Moses Pelaelo. The Washington Based Global organization team, led by renowned economic researcher and International Finance analyst, Enrique Gelbard, held discussions on the country’s recent developments and prospects that predominately focused on policies aimed at increasing economic growth and job creation while preserving monetary and financial stability.

The IMF states in the report released on Friday June 8th that tax exemptions amongst other issues have to be relooked into. “On the revenue side, it would be important to remove many tax exemptions, increase property taxation, and consider making the personal income tax more progressive.”  This recommendation by IMF presents a contrary view to the current path as the country has in its investment wooing basket tax exemption incentives aimed at attracting foreign capital to set up business in Botswana. However IMF advises that tax is vital in boosting the country’s administrative, fiscal and institutional capacity adding that tax revenue is very essential for any developing country to function.

Further, it recommends that Botswana restrains the growth of recurrent spending, improve the efficiency of social programs, and protect public investment while prioritizing projects with the highest payoffs. There have been concerns that government expenditure at times deviates from key priorities such as job creation, industrialization and economic diversification.

The report also underscores that the financial sector can be further developed to intermediate additional savings and lend to productive sectors by strengthening creditors’ rights, improving information on borrowers’ creditworthiness, increasing the issuance of government bonds to develop a reliable yield curve, and promoting mobile payments.

According to Gelbard’s team, the slow pace of economic diversification is worrisome and that depending on a single commodity to finance most of the country budget was highly risky. Market trends, the team observed, evolve with time posing more global economic uncertainties. “The diamond and government-led development model has been showing limitations with lower average GDP growth and slow job creation in recent years, thus Botswana needs an accelerated approach focused on private sector development to enable growth in selected sectors in turn lowering unemployment and diversifying exports.”

The report continues to state that diversification and job creation efforts require focus on prompt and bold market friendly reforms that can reduce the costs of doing business, improve skills in the labour force, make the public sector more efficient, privatize key enterprises, and enable competition and entry of firms in sectors with latent comparative advantage.

IMF however commended Botswana‘s recent announcements on the intention to liberalize visa and work permits’ policies, reduce bureaucratic requirements, and privatize inefficient enterprises. It suggested that to realize successful implementation of the reform however, will require speed and determination including an accelerated passage of supporting legislation, together with accountability among government entities and enhanced monitoring and evaluation of results.“Delivering on the above policies and reforms will be essential to enable private sector-led growth and employment creation in Botswana.”

On the 2018 economic outlook the IMF noted that Botswana’s medium-term prospects were favourable, assuming a decisive and prompt implementation of key fiscal policy measures and market-friendly reforms that enable private sector development, lowers unemployment, reduces income inequality, and diversifies exports into selected sectors. “Real GDP growth decelerated to 2.4 percent in 2017 owing to declines in copper and nickel production and lower activity in construction and trade, while the fiscal and external accounts were nearly balanced, inflation was about 3 percent, the exchange rate was stable, the financial sector remained sound and well capitalized, and public debt continued to be low at about 19 percent of GDP.”

The organization further noted that Botswana’s economic growth was expected to rebound supported by higher diamond sales, a stable macroeconomic environment, and higher government spending. “While the government balance is expected to deteriorate owing to lower revenues from the Southern Africa Customs Union and higher fiscal outlays, the deficit should be manageable given high levels of savings and foreign exchange reserves. In the medium-term, and in line with their track record of prudent policies, the authorities aim at achieving a fiscal surplus.”



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