THE local economy has experienced a trade deficit of N$8,35 billion during the first quarter of 2018, a 71% worsening deficit compared to the N$4,9 billion seen the same period in 2017.
This was revealed yesterday by statistician general Alex Shimuafeni, who attributed the increasing deficit to lower exports valued at roughly N$18,8 billion, compared to a higher import figure totalling N$27,2 billion.
During the period under review, overall trade stood at roughly N$46 billion, compared to N$36,1 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter of 2017, total trade was estimated to be N$42,3 billion.
High domestic demand for foreign goods worsened the trade deficit, in turn inflating the import bill by 33%. Moreover, the quarter-on-quarter trade deficit worsened by 49%.
Figures from the Namibia Statistics Agency showed that for the past 20 quarters since 2013, Namibia experienced continuous trade deficits averaging N$7,3 billion. Moreover, the highest deficit of approximately N$12,1 billion was observed in the second quarter of 2015, while the lowest deficit of approximately N$1 billion was seen in the first quarter of 2016.
Furthermore, over the 20-quarter period, there has been an unsteady trend in the deficit, with the most significant growth of 775% recorded in quarter two of 2016, while on average, over a period of twenty quarters, the deficit grew by 57%. Namibia's high demand for high-valued manufactured commodities and machinery from the rest of the world has driven the persistent deficits. The country instead exports mainly primary commodities that are of low value, with the exception of diamonds.
"The import bill rose by N$6,7 billion (33%) to N$27,2 billion, compared to N$20,5 billion in the first quarter of 2017. Equally, exports advanced, rising by 21% to register N$18,83 billion when compared to N$15,6 billion in the first quarter of 2017. Namibia's leading export markets in quarter one of 2018 comprised China (N$3,5 billion: copper cathodes and ores & concentrates), South Africa (N$3,4 billion: diamonds, live animals and fish), Belgium (N$2,43 billion: copper cathodes), Botswana (N$1,93 billion: diamonds) and Italy (N$1,42 billion: zinc & articles thereof, and copper cathodes)," Shimuafeni explained.
Namibia's imports were mainly sourced from South Africa, standing at N$10,94 billion; Bahamas at N$3,6 billion for a vessel; Zambia at N$3,6 billion; China at N$1,8 billion; and Botswana at N$1,3 billion. In terms of commodities, vessels, copper cathodes, mineral fuel and oils, as well as boilers and vehicles emerged as the most imported commodities, which contributed largely to Namibia's import bill during the first quarter of 2018.
"In terms of economic regions, over 35% of Namibia's total value of goods exported were destined to the EU, making that region Namibia's largest export destination in quarter one of 2018. Sacu and Brics occupied the second and third positions, accounting for 29,5% and 20,1% shares of total exports, respectively. Sacu remained the largest source of domestic imports, accounting for 49,8% share of total imports, with the non-Sacu SADC area ranking second with a 16% share, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa occupying the third position with a 15% share of the total import bill," Shimuafeni stated.