Jack Healey

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

A re­cent blog post, can Le­sotho sur­vive more de­vel­op­ment? by John Aerni-flessner and charles Fo­gel­man points out that “De­spite post-mil­len­nium de­vel­op­ment pro­grams..., most Ba­sotho still live in poverty, and av­er­age life ex­pectancy is 49 years.”

this as­tound­ing fact re­minded me of my time in Le­sotho in the late 70s. My friend David Levine was re­spon­si­ble for a train­ing pro­gram de­signed to pre­pare Peace corps vol­un­teers en­ter­ing the apartheid state of South Africa. I was one of the three Peace corps di­rec­tors in the re­gion. In Swazi­land, reg Petty was a sea­soned civil rights worker. Mean­while, in Botswana, nor­man and elsa rush shared a back­ground in hu­man rights work. We were all firmly op­posed to the apartheid sys­tem and did our best to work with Levine’s pro­gram as di­rec­tors. In our ef­forts to awaken some of our vol­un­teers to the hor­rors of that sys­tem, our lit­tle net­work en­abled us to rely on each other for sup­port and friend­ship.

My role was not to pro­vide de­vel­op­ment aid but to feed Peace corps vol­un­teers (Pcvs) into the ex­ist­ing de­vel­op­ment pro­grams of the host na­tion. We av­er­aged around 80 Pcvs over my four and a half years there. the vol­un­teers were very good at their jobs. Vol­un­teers did not get in the way or cause prob­lems...they just helped. I ad­mired them. But what re­mains the same to­day as it was dur­ing my days in Le­sotho is this: de­vel­op­ment aid from wealthy na­tions is more self-serv­ing than ben­e­fi­cial to the poor in Le­sotho.

Un­like my days in Le­sotho, it is not just the United States pro­vid­ing the type of de­vel­op­ment that ben­e­fits the wealthy in­stead of the poor. now you can add the pow­er­ful na­tion of china, with some help from tai­wan to the mix. All three of th­ese na­tions have large poverty rates, so we must not ex­pect them to help the poor abroad. Since they lack the abil­ity at home, it is im­pos­si­ble to trans­mit a so­lu­tion to Le­sotho or any­where else re­ceiv­ing aid.

While I was in Le­sotho, an event oc­curred, which I was for­tu­nate to ob­serve, that ex­pressed the in­ef­fi­ciency of for­eign aid. Robert Mcna­mara came to Le­sotho as the head of the World Bank. In cel­e­bra­tion of his visit, Prime Min­is­ter Le­abua Jonathan or­ga­nized some vil­lages for danc­ing in a ru­ral spot. Mcna­mara came and ev­ery­one sang and danced to­gether. Of course, Le­sotho in time re­ceived lots of trac­tors and plows. Yet, within a year, th­ese plows and trac­tors rusted be­cause the farm­ers could not af­ford the fuel to get them mov­ing.

I was close to the UNDP di­rec­tor David Mac Adams in Le­sotho who shared th­ese wor­ries with me. even at his level, his abil­ity to pro­duce change was min­i­mal. Macro de­vel­op­ment was adopted be­cause the USA was fight­ing “com­mu­nism” in lit­tle ole Le­sotho as well as the pow­er­ful South Africa. that fear was un­rea­son­able, but not to the forces of rea­gan and thatcher. roads ev­ery­where were built. com­merce (non-com­mu­nist) needs roads and thus roads were made in all di­rec­tions.

Le­sotho’s political par­ties re­main at each other’s throats, a con­stant theme since the mid-70s. Sim­i­larly, cor­rup­tion re­mains present within many gov­ern­men­tal con­tracts. While Le­sotho’s pow­er­ful strug­gle for in­flu­ence and con­trol, over 200,000 Ba­sotho seek jobs in South Africa, yet an­other is­sue present dur­ing the 70s.

De­vel­op­ment money that could have been used to ad­dress Le­sotho’s poverty is­sue has been fun­nelled into in­fra­struc­ture. roads, now shiny and bright, sport an even more spec­tac­u­lar over­head. Macro de­vel­op­ment is the name of the game and led by the Mil­len­nium chal­lenge corp (Mcc) and the African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA).

road-build­ing is a sine qua non of western and east­ern aid. Mov­ing stuff in and out has been deemed the most nec­es­sary im­pe­rial need of the out­siders with cash. While their pock­ets grow fat­ter, trickle down, the old rea­gan ploy, is still be­ing used in the aid pro­gram.

the av­er­age Mosotho lives a life of poverty with a life ex­pectancy of 49 years. the il­lu­sion of es­cape has been cre­ated, as spe­cial­ized jobs have been made avail­able to Ba­sotho women. th­ese new jobs are in fac­to­ries, which are lo­cated in the cap­i­tal Maseru. How­ever, Ba­sotho women do not live or want to live in Maseru. While new in­dus­try can help re­lieve eco­nomic strife, it comes at a cost, the risk of de­stroy­ing com- mu­ni­ties. the sit­u­a­tion is rem­i­nis­cent of the 180,000 min­ers who left home and trav­elled to South Africa to mine di­a­monds and coal.

the govern­ment’s fo­cus on roads has done noth­ing to ad­dress the Ba­sotho’s strug­gles. the new roads and the over­pass are nice for walk­ing, but since few Ba­sotho have cars, it is rather a lim­ited source of pride for the Ba­sotho. What has truly helped the Ba­sotho is the de­liv­ery of a wa­ter sys­tem from its newish dam, which ben­e­fits both South Africa and Le­sotho. Wa­ter is a great bless­ing for Le­sotho and the peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the de­liv­ery of clean wa­ter from their dam. the dam serves as a re­minder of the min­i­mal pos­i­tive re­lief Ba­sotho have re­ceived.

In the early 80s, Le­sotho was struck with an aids/hiv epi­demic, a ter­ri­ble and aw­ful one. thou­sands died. HIV lives through­out the vil­lages in the moun­tains. Help even­tu­ally came for this epi­demic, but the dam­age was done, and it was mas­sive. De­spite this disas­ter, political par­ties con­tin­u­ally keep its cit­i­zens in sus­pense with­out breaks of vi­o­lence against one an­other.

Fur­ther­more, politi­cians have lined their pock­ets with a sur­plus of cash from their cor­rupt deal­ings with in­vestors. the pres­ence of con­stant vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion has alien­ated the av­er­age ci­ti­zen to the point that they just avoid pol­i­tics and hope not to get caught in cross­fire of th­ese end­less, silly but costly bat­tles.

this ar­ti­cle could be just a look back, old and inane. I wish it were; yet, it is not. the aid com­mu­nity lacks the sim­ple but pow­er­ful out­look of ev­ery par­ent that calls for: a safe place for the child; a doc­tor when hurt; food to grow up on and a school to get ed­u­cated. If th­ese ba­sic needs can be ful­filled, then Le­sotho will ex­cel. cur­rent macroe­co­nomic aid does not fix the prob­lems faced by Ba­sotho.

they need schools, a health­care sys­tem, agri­cul­ture prod­ucts that can ac­tu­ally be used by lo­cals, and a po­lice depart­ment that takes care of its peo­ple. now that would be an aid pack­age. that pro­gram would not re­peat the late 70s. the cur­rent one does. there are only two mil­lion cit­i­zens in Le­sotho.

It is not hard.... wake up Amer­ica and china to the agenda of ev­ery par­ent.

— huff­in­g­ton­post.com

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