Statistics Botswana has reported that the inflation rate for March has retreated from the record highs, but it is a development that will not suppress consumer and business fears that prices will continue to rise as events unfold.
The consumer price index, which tracks changes in prices of commonly used goods and services by consumers, shows that in March the annual inflation slowed down to 10 percent, down from 10.6 percent in February – the highest rate in more than 13 years.
The 0.6 percent fall in prices between February and March has been attributed to the waning base effects associated with the increase in domestic fuel prices last year as consumers and businesses make adjustments.
While the overall inflation rate decreased slightly, there were upward movements in some CPI constituents. The Food and non-alcoholic beverages group index prices rose by 0.6 percent, in part due to the increase of cooking oil, vegetables, bread and meat.
The housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels group index registered a rise of 0.3 percent, mainly due to the rise in rentals and building materials. Also rising by 0.3 percent in prices was the alcohol beverages and tobacco index, clothing and footwear index, as well as the recreation and culture group index.
While official data from Statistics Botswana shows that prices have been stabilizing since February, consumers and businesses are experiencing a different reality. According to the Business Expectations Survey by Bank of Botswana released on Friday, businesses expect cost pressures to continue rising in the first quarter of 2022, mainly attributable to the increase in input costs, due to fuel price increases effected on December 2021 and reflected in the January 2022 inflation.
Firms’ expectations about domestic inflation surpassed the upper bound of the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range, with the firms expecting inflation to average 8.3 percent in 2022 and 7.5 percent in 2023.
Prior to 2021’s rapid rise in prices, Botswana was in a low inflationary environment that dragged for nine years, as prices fell from the highs of 7.5 percent in 2012, to record lows of 1.9 percent in 2020. The easing of the inflation started with 2012’s average rate of 7.5 percent dropping to 5.9 percent in 2013, and continued to 4.4 percent the following year, and by 2015 it was at 3 percent.
The inflation rate’s descent went below Bank of Botswana’s threshold in 2016, with the rate recorded at 2.8 percent, before increasing slightly to 3.3 percent in 2017 and retreated to 3.2 percent in 2018. By 2019, the inflation rate was below the objective range again, registering 2.8 percent, and plunged to the lowest levels in more than two decades as the average annual inflation rate hit new lows of 1.9 percent in 2020.
However, things took a dramatic turn in 2021 as prices soared, ending the year with an average annual inflation rate of 6.7 percent, reflecting upward changes in administered prices and taxes, as well as higher foreign inflation.
Portfolio Manager at local asset management firm, Kgori Capital, Kwabena Antwi says inflation will steadily decline in 2022 due to base effects but remain above the BoB’s objective range.
“We expect inflation to fall within the objective range in Q1 2023. The main upside risk to our forecast is Transport inflation as global oil prices have continued to rise. Oil prices have risen by 35% year-to-date this year”, says Antwi. .
Kgori Capital expect the central bank to implement at least one 25bps rate hike in 2022 as elevated inflation has been mainly supply driven and demand remains lacklustre.