Friday, July 19, 2024

Bank of Botswana should strive to open up its operations to public scrutiny

A recent article, which basically said Botswana was among the world’s worst when it came to public disclosure of how foreign reserves are managed, could not escape our attention.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund institute rankings put Botswana well below such countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan.

We should be worried that Botswana shares a position with secretive pariah regimes like Iran, Mauritania and Venezuela among others.

Of course, authorities here will say the criteria used are debatable as to be questionable.
It may well be so, that much we agree.

But one should also hasten to point out that when we fare well ÔÇô as we so often do – authorities always jump to receive the accolades without ever giving a hoot about the credibility of the institutions that shower us with kudos.

But that is a debate for another day.

What is important as of now is that rankings or no rankings, something needs to be done to take the public along with regarding the management of the country’s foreign reserves.

The starting point, naturally, would be for Bank of Botswana to determine the platform that is most accessible to many citizens.

After identifying the platform, then the Central Bank, naturally with the input of Government, specifically the Ministry of Finance, would be to determine what information has to be released to the public without undermining the sensitivities of the assets.

We are aware that at the moment the Bank of Botswana website attempts to provide such information.
But the truth of the matter is that owing to shallow internet penetration and accessibility, very few Batswana are able to visit such a platform.

Worse, even to those who have access to the internet, the information is often shrouded in technical jargon that effectively excludes a majority of citizens.

We do not want to believe that Bank of Botswana deliberately goes out of its way to shut out a majority of citizens from scrutinizing or understanding its operations.

If that is the case then it would be grossly unfortunate and irresponsible.

Given what has been happening on the global market, especially where Botswana’s foreign reserves are invested, Batswana are right to be jittery and apprehensive about the fate of their assets.
They also need to know where such assets are invested and with who.

This information can be provided by way of supplying short profiles and track records of asset managers who are taking care of Botswana’s assets, including the amounts those managers have been favoured with.

Traditionally, citizens have always trusted Bank of Botswana ÔÇô almost as an article of faith – that the Bank would do its best.

But, as all of us know, there are those things that are well outside the Bank’s power and expertise.
It, therefore, is in the Bank’s interest to share information so that when disaster strikes, citizens are in a position to well appreciate just how events have been unfolding.
In these fast changing times, remaining an ivory tower can hardly be in the best interest of the Central Bank ÔÇô we guess.


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