Saturday, December 9, 2023

Can somebody please tell us the situation with our foreign reserves?

A lot has been said about the global economic meltdown, the credit crunch and how the Western governments are frantically running all over the place to restore order and bring sanity back into the realms of capitalism.
What is surprising in Botswana is the deafening silence with regard to what will happen to our economy.

As a nation, we seem to be living in a world of denial, oblivious of what is happening across the globe, choosing, instead, to bury our heads in the sand, under the illusion that Botswana will not be affected.
Officially, major economies like the United States, Japan, Britain and many others in the Euro zone have entered recession.

Nobody knows for sure how the situation will turn out in the end.
Nobody knows for sure what the length or depth of that recession will be, yet it is in those countries that our foreign reserves, our national pride, are invested.

Millions and millions of the workers in those countries have been laid off.
More are still to follow.
The bond market in the United States has gridlocked.

Insurance companies which, as we all know, are the pension markets’ favourite investment instruments have literally been forced to survive on state handouts.
Whole industries, including some of the world’s flagship conglomerates have collapsed.

While stock markets have tumbled, in some cases by as big a margin as over 50 percent, our authorities here at home still do not see the significance of openly and truthfully telling us what really is happening to the billions of foreign reserves.

It’s disturbing that nobody has the guts to face the nation in the eye and break the bad news of what to expect as we crawl into the New Year.

Of course, no one knows for sure what the length and depth of this world economic recession will be, but it is very important that the key economic institutions in the country keep us abreast of the true state of the country’s public finances.

It is the madness of our time that while the buyers of Botswana diamonds are walking the streets of America, jobless, defeated and distraught companies such as Debswana are back home telling us that everything will be fine.

It is the madness of our time that while almost all investments instrument across the world have crashed, the Bank of Botswana is here preaching a gospel of business as usual.

More importantly, it is a sign of our ailing national psyche that while fewer diamonds have been sold than at any time in recent memory, the Ministry of Finance is still to send a public warning to the nation on what cuts to expect in next year’s budget.

Of all the three institutions, Debswana, Bank of Botswana and the Ministry of Finance, only Debswana can be excused for this striking silence.
As a business, Debswana’s natural inclination is to assuage and allay customers’ fears.

That is not the responsibility of the Central Bank.
It is also not the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.

Under normal circumstances, the Bank of Botswana and the Ministry of Finance would have long come out into the open and confronted the truth, however painful it may turn out go be.
Only then would we have trust in them under the hope that they are the right people to see us out of the abyss.
It is a moral obligation that the Finance Ministry comes out and tells the nation what projects will be cancelled.

It is a moral obligation for Bank of Botswana to tell the nation what losses have been incurred so far with regard to the foreign reserves.

Lehman Brothers, an investment Bank with global outreach has folded.
Did that in no way affect the reserves under the management of the Bank of Botswana?

The same applies to the BPOPF (Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund) which has a big chunk of their money invested in the very same offshore markets that are today under squeeze.

We need to be told what forecasts are with regard to job losses or creation, as the case may be.
It can never be enough to say that whatever losses there may be will be recouped.
We need to know the projected scale of those losses.

Its high time Batswana demanded to know how reserves are managed and protected.
Those are national assets.
They do not belong to the Board of the Bank of Botswana; an institution which is wedded to an interest rate ideology that prescribes Bank Rate as a panacea to all our economic problems.
As for BPOPF, the least is said about them the better.

I doubt any of the trustees even at the bare minimum appreciates the gravity of the situation at hand.


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