Gomolemo Basele, a quant at the First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) says the increasing likelihood that inflation will breach the Bank of Botswana’s (BoB) objective range for most of the year heightens pressure on the central bank to start hiking the bank rate in order to arrest the situation, despite a relatively mute demand side. Basele expects the BoB to institute a cumulative 75 basis points (0.75 percent) increase to the bank rate (currently at 3.75 percent) over the course of this year.
The latest inflation print, he says coupled with the continuing upward trend in food prices, poses significant upside risk to the bank’s expected 5.4 percent average price growth for 2022 – with inflation expected to revert to the 3.0 percent-6.0 percent objective range in the latter part of 3Q 2022.
Inflation kicked-off the year by printing a staggering 10.6 percent y/y in January (compared to 2.3 percent y/y in January 2021). The main driver of domestic price growth remains the transport index, which contributed 6.2 percentage points to the headline number. This follows from the last fuel increase effected on 20 December 2021, coupled with a P1.00 increase in public transportation fares for both taxis and minibuses. Other major contributors to the higher reading included utilities (1.4 percentage points), food and non-alcoholic beverages (1.0 percentage points), as well as miscellaneous goods and services (0.7 percentage points).
Due to the timing of last year’s supply-side changes, with taxes, levies and tariffs being increased at the start of 2Q21, inflation is expected to offer very limited reprieve over 1Q22, Basele says. “Further, upside pressure is expected from the transport index, with local fuel prices being adjusted to mimic higher international oil price changes in a bid to avoid under recoveries by oil importers,” he says. “Utilities and rental prices are expected to be upwardly revised due to reduced subventions from the government to major parastatals — to date, the National Electricity Fund levy rate has been increased by P0.05 per KWh.”