In 2015, global economic activity remained unresponsive. An uneven recovery is expected to continue in advanced economies while growth in emerging markets and developing economies continues to decline. In relation to our local economy, the economic recovery has been challenged. GDP growth turned slightly negative in 2015 owing to a decline in the global demand for diamonds and copper. Though the non-mining activities such as Trade, Transport and Communications and Financial and Business Services recorded positive growth over the year, this growth was mitigated owing to negative growth from mining activity, a regional drought, and electricity and water challenges. Diamond sales have picked up in recent months and there is cautious optimism in this regard. External commentators (the IMF) forecast that Botswana will recover from the mild contraction in 2015 and will average growth of 4.3% a year from 2016 to 2020.
Due to our stable Macroeconomic policies, our inflation has remained low at around 3 percent which is at the lower end of the targeted range of 3-6 percent, partly due to the effect of a firm Pula exchange rate against a volatile and weakened Rand which helped to curb imported inflation from the region. One of the Action items from the previous HLCC was for the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry and Business. Botswana to check on Traders and Retailers who were simply sticking the Pula price over the numerically identical Rand price. At an exchange rate which fluctuated between 1.32 and 1.40 Rand to a Pula during this past period, this is certainly not playing fair with our consumers. I am happy to report that the Ministry has been visiting traders and retailers and cautioning them, after declaring this to be an 'Unfair Trading' practice. I trust that Business Botswana has cautioned the Business Community accordingly. The Pula price over the identical Rand price appears to be no longer visible. However, the Ministry will now check on traders and retailers to ensure that the exchange rate differential is indeed being passed on to the consumer, and appropriate action will be taken against those who persist in this unfair practice. A consumer education programme will also be embarked upon by the Ministry so that consumers may challenge this practice and report obvious malpractice for action by the Ministry. As you are aware, a robust and aggressive Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) was adopted to address prevailing unemployment. The implementation of the Economic Stimulus Programme launched in February this year is on-going.
Ministries are working tirelessly to ensure that the Programme is successfully implemented and we rely on the Private Sector to join hands with Government in implementing the Programme. As we have indicated, bold decisions to ensure the success of the Programme have been taken. However delivery of the results is largely the responsibility of the Private Sector. Let us continue to support the Programme in order to help those unemployed to access the labour market and new job opportunities. It is through its successful implementation that our economy can transform to a competitive, highly productive and environmentally sustainable economy providing sustainable jobs for its people. Let me thank God Almighty for the rains we experienced around March, in that even the Gaborone dam received some inflow. As I conclude let me remind the private sector that the Nation will be celebrating 50 years of development in September this year. Preparations are underway and we are encouraged to see BOT50 merchandise filling our shops and even marketed by enthusiastic street vendors. The private sector is encouraged to come forward with ideas and contributions and to liaise with our Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture to make this a memorable occasion.
Part of President Ian Khama’s speech at the opening of the High Level Consultative Council in Gaborone on May 26.