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A first clear signal that policymakers also believe the worst is behind us

A first clear signal that policymakers also believe the worst is behind us

It is extremely difficult to convince people we have turned the economic tide when their daily experiences fly in the face of what they deem, is a scatterbrain notion on my side.

I was therefore ecstatic when the South African Reserve Bank, amongst all its other troubles, decided to lower their repo rate by 25 basis points from 7% to 6.25% on Thursday. This hit the market as a big surprise. Bloomberg who polled 23 South African economists beforehand reported that only three expected a rate cut with the vast majority believing there was no room for rates to go either up or down.

A week ago I did a presentation for a special interest group whose primary concern was not NEEEF or government corruption or the deficit, but to get a sober take on where we stand now. For this discussion I had to go dig for some stats that would support my view of a tentative turn-around.

Most of the indicators I chose are macro-economic so it must be expected that their immediate impact on business right now, will still be minimal. And this is also what I told my audience.

While we are nowhere near a healthy economy, we no longer are in ICU. My first indicator is money supply or so-called M2 which is cash in circulation, cash at the banks, and all other near-cash instruments. To the end of June it has increased by 6.6% compared to a year ago. This is in my view a healthy stat. Given that the economy has contracted for three quarters in a row, one would have expected its cash requirements to wane, not to improve.

Bank liquidity is also on the mend from the terrible lows in the second half of last year. This is a statistics that must be handled circumspiciously since it fluctuates widely on a daily basis, often by as much as N$1 billion. But if I compare the end of month minima this year to last, it shows me bank liquidity has nearly doubled. That too is a good sign.

Private Sector credit is my favourite stat. In my mind it is the economic thermometer and it is a strong leading indicator. This stat is not nearly healthy, registering a paltry 8.5% in June, but at least it seems to be improving. A healthy Namibian economy needs PSCE of around 13% for a real growth rate of between 4.5% and 5%.

Perhaps the best news of the past month is the headline inflation reading of 6.1% for June. There is a discernible receding trend from the staggering 8.2% in January, and it is supported by the South African reading which came in at 5.1% for June. This is certainly a clear indication that overall price growth is moderating. Also, if one dig deeper into the Consumer Price Index’s constituent elements, there is lots of good news buried deeper in the layers.

My next positive spin comes from diamond sales which started showing improvement in December last year, and which have continued a respectable upward trend. This is exceedingly good news for the fiscus since a disproportionately large slice of its income, is derived from all sorts of taxed on diamonds.

Then of course, the dramatic improvement in the balance of payments. My latest figure shows a 23% improvement although it is still negative. As the big infrastructure projects nears maturity and as the rest of the economy catches up, I believe we will still see further improvements.

Our foreign reserves at around N$25 billion at last count, is not insignificant, having stabilised above the low of N$22 billion earlier this year. The best news I read in this is that the foreign reserves have remained at an acceptable level since November 2015 when they received a 57% boost from the US$750 million Eurobond. It means that the government, despite all the turmoil of 2016, did not dig substantially into these reserves, and that whatever was needed for trade, has been put back over the past four months.

To me it was just as big a surprise as to the South Africans that the Monetary Policy Committee at the Reserve Bank saw its way open to lower the repo rate. Immediately the Rand shed a little value, from around R12.91 to R13.01, definitely not a train smash and very far from the lows it had tested since December 2015.

My menagerie of good news is not always that easy to locate and to collate. Most of the items I have listed are not coordinated in any way. It means one has to approach them carefully to draw meaningful conclusions on which way we are heading.

If only the Bank of Namibia will support me and lower our repo rate as well, then it will provide some confirmation of my view of the bigger picture. And that view is a positive one.


 

 

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia

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20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.