Botswana entered the COVID-19 crisis with larger buffers than most countries, but significantly less than in the past. The country was contending with structural challenges, persistent negative external shocks and delays in adjustment that had already caused a significant weakening of international reserves coverage and the fiscal position amid high unemployment. The pandemic exacerbated these challenges causing a sharp GDP contraction, among the strongest in SSA and a widening in the current account deficit. Foreign exchange reserves dropped further, though still remaining well above adequate levels. The fiscal deficit widened significantly as the government sought to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and implemented a sizeable public wage increase agreed in 2019. The deficit was financed partially by drawing down on the Government Investment Account.
The global economy is climbing out from the depths to which it had plummeted during the Great Lockdown in April. But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread, many countries have slowed reopening and some are reinstating partial lockdowns to protect susceptible populations. While recovery in China has been faster than expected, the global economy’s long ascent back to pre-pandemic levels of activity remains prone to setbacks.