The COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe impact on Lesotho’s economy. Supply chains for major industries have been disrupted and a national shutdown to contain the virus curtailed economic activity with adverse social impacts. The economy is expected to be further hit by declining external demand for textiles and diamonds, shrinking remittances, and delays to major construction projects. The authorities are taking measures to contain the virus and are implementing plans to mitigate its health and economic consequences. The economic shock, as well as the additional required spending, have generated urgent balance-of-payments (BOP) needs. Lesotho does not have an arrangement with the Fund.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept. and International Monetary Fund. Monetary and Capital Markets Department
This mission, a follow up to the earlier mission from IMF AFRITAC South (AFS) conducted in March 2017 (STX Mr. Bernie Egan), was designed to further help the authorities in the implementation of Basel II and select elements of Basel III. The main objectives of the mission were to help the CBL finalize the Draft Guidelines to banks on Pillar 1; assist in the implementation of Pillar 2, with attention paid to the Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process (SREP) and the banks´ Internal Capital Adequacy Assessment Process (ICAAP); and evaluate current disclosure requirements in view of the recent revision of Pillar 3 by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS). The adoption of select elements of Basel III especially those related to definition of capital was discussed.
Francisco Arizala, Mr. Matthieu Bellon, Ms. Margaux MacDonald, Mr. Montfort Mlachila, and Mustafa Yenice
After close to two decades of strong economic activity, overall growth in sub-Saharan Africa decelerated markedly in 2015–16 as the largest economies experienced negative or flat growth. Regional growth started recovering in 2017, but the question remains of how trends in the economies stuck in low gear will spill over to the countries that have maintained robust growth. This note illuminates the discussion by identifying growth spillover channels. The focus is on trade, banking, financial, remittance, investment, fiscal, and security channels, which are the most prominent and most likely to transmit growth trends across borders. In addition to bringing together findings from a broad array of existing research, the note identifies countries that are the most likely sources of regional spillovers and those that are most likely to be impacted, and provides estimates for the size of these channels. It finds that intraregional trade and remittance flows are an important channel for growth spillovers, while banking channels are less important but will remain a risk going forward. Finally, the note documents other important spillover channels through financial markets contagion, revenue-sharing arrangements in fiscal unions, commodity-pricing policies, corporate investment, and forced migration. The main takeaway is that the level of interdependence among sub-Saharan countries is higher than is generally assumed. Consequently, there is a need for additional emphasis on regional surveillance and spillover analysis, along with traditional bilateral surveillance.
This Selected Issues paper provides further background on the macrofinancial sector analysis that informed Lesotho’s 2017 Article IV consultation. Lesotho’s financial sector is small, concentrated, and lacks financial inclusion, although mobile banking services and financial cooperatives offer some encouraging potential. Lesotho’s most important vulnerabilities are exposure to developments in South Africa and dependence on revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Shocks to SACU revenues can become a source of systemic risk by affecting the fiscal position and the balance of payments. The financial system will be affected by both channels, with substantial implications if the shock is permanent. This paper focuses on two potential consequences of a severe SACU revenue shock for the financial system: A decline in reserves that may threaten the sustainability of the hard currency peg with the South African rand, and the impact of a forced fiscal consolidation on household income and the quality of credit to households, affecting both bank and nonbank lenders. It turns out that financial shallowness and lack of inclusion may be a defining feature of the formal banking system; thereby raising questions about potential trade-offs between inclusiveness and financial stability.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that high levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality persist in Lesotho despite its faster growth compared with regional peers over the last decade. GDP growth is expected to be about 3 percent in FY2017/18, below the average of 4.1 percent for the past decade, and driven by mining and agriculture. Over the next three years, GDP growth is expected to be led by mining and construction related to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II. A steep decline in Southern African Customs Union transfers, a major source of government revenue, will result in a fiscal deficit that is likely to exceed 6 percent of GDP for the second year.
Mr. Jiro Honda, Manabu Nose, Cesar Sosa Padilla, Mr. Jose L. Torres, Ms. Murna Morgan, Mr. Fernando G Im, and Ms. Natalia A Koliadina
Over the past decade, Lesotho and Swaziland have faced significant volatility in their fiscal revenues, owing to highly unstable Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts. Based on model analysis, this paper explores the advantages of implementing fiscal rules to deal with such volatility. It finds that the use of a structural balance target could smooth the growth impact from revenue shocks while helping preserve sufficient international reserves during bad times. From a long-term perspective, it suggests possible welfare gains from introducing fiscal rules. Last, it concludes that, based on experiences in other countries, developing strong institutions and improving public financial management are necessary steps to ease the transitions to a rules-based fiscal policy framework.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes policies that can raise potential growth in small middle-income countries (SMICs) of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The findings suggest that although macroeconomic stability and trade openness are necessary for productivity growth, they are not sufficient. SMICs in SSA need to improve the quality of their public spending, most notably on education, to solve the problem of skill mismatch in the labor market, reduce the regulatory burden on firms, improve access to financing by small and medium-size enterprises, and pave the way for structural transformation in these economies. Given the short-term cost of these reforms, the timing and sequencing of reforms and the role of quick wins is important for their implementation. In some cases, a social bargain can be a mechanism to generate consensus around a package of mutually reinforcing reforms.