Pri­ori­tise the na­tion’s in­ter­ests

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THHE prob­lem with pyra­mid schemes like MMM Global is that the tar­gets are al­ways the poor and re­ally uni­formed. I am talk­ing I AM of­ten re­luc­tantly tempted to ask my­self this ques­tion of our govern­ment whether they are mo­ti­vated by greed or na­tion­build­ing? I am sure ev­ery pa­tri­otic Mosotho and our de­vel­op­ment part­ners ask the same ques­tion. Of course to an ob­server who is not con­ver­sant with the po­lit­i­cal econ­omy of Le­sotho, this would sound a mun­dane ques­tion when we all know that govern­ments are in of­fice for the ben­e­fit of the whole na­tion if not for a big­ger per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, in re­gard to Le­sotho this ques­tion be­comes per­ti­nent when one con­sid­ers the fol­low­ing poli­cies or rather in­ac­tion in th­ese ar­eas:

EU with­drawal of bud­getary sup­port On the 2 March 2016, the Euro­pean Union (EU), which is a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment part­ner, an­nounced that it was €26.85 mil­lion (about M460.65 mil­lion) in bud­getary sup­port to the govern­ment as the lat­ter had not made suf­fi­cient progress in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agreed pol­icy re­forms

The EU went fur­ther to an­nounce that it will sus­pend is­suance of the funds with a grace pe­riod of five months in which the gov­erned is sup­posed to demon­strate “real progress” in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­forms es­pe­cially in the area of Pub­lic Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment.

The un­sat­is­fac­tory progress refers to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Na­tional Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plan, the pro­gramme to im­ple­ment Pub­lic Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment, the trans­parency and over­sight of the state bud­get, as well as the main­te­nance of a sta­bil­ity-ori­ented macro-eco­nomic pol­icy.

If this is not a mas­sive loss, then I do not know what is. Th­ese funds could have funded so­cial-up­lift­ment pro­grammes to our im­pov­er­ished na­tion, but our govern­ment has failed to ad­dress this in­suf­fi­ciency and there are no re­me­dial mea­sures in sight.

AGOA fu­ture doubt­ful In 2001, the United States Congress en­acted the Africa Growth and Op­por­tu­ni­ties Act (AGOA), whose main ob­jec­tive was to fa­cil­i­tate the im­port of goods from sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, Le­sotho in­cluded, duty free into the lu­cra­tive United States’ mar­ket. Over the years, Le­sotho has ben­e­fited hugely from this piece of leg­is­la­tion with the re­sult that over 43 000 jobs are sus­tained in the tex­tile and gar­ment in­dus­try through the ex­port of goods to the huge US mar­ket.

How­ever, for el­i­gi­bil­ity ben­e­fits un­der AGOA, a country has to meet cer­tain cri­te­ria that in­clude pro­mo­tion of free en­ter­prise,

IN re­sponse to “Govt ex­tends Bid­vest con­tract” ( Le­sotho Times, 14 April 2016), why does Fi­nance Min­is­ter Dr Mam­phono Khaketla not start hir­ing a govern­ment fleet that Le­sotho can af­ford. It is ridicu­lous that we have all th­ese govern­ment of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees driv­ing around in high priced lux­ury sedans when a Polo or a Corolla would do the mar­ket-free econ­omy, gov­er­nance, rule of law, ob­ser­vance of hu­man rights and trans­parency.

How­ever, since the re­lease of the Phumaphi/sadc (South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity) Re­port among oth­ers, to in­quire into the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the demise of the for­mer com­man­der of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF), Lieu­tenan­tGen­eral Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, as a re­sult of, by their own ad­mis­sion be­ing shot dead by his col­leagues, the US has ex­pressed a wish that govern­ment im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port.

As a re­sult, the US has granted Le­sotho a grace pe­riod of one year till April, 2017, for govern­ment to im­ple­ment. The fu­ture of over 43 000 jobs in the tex­tile and gar­ment in­dus­try is in limbo be­cause of the un­cer­tainty. Re­sul­tantly, no new or­ders have been placed by the large US em­po­ri­ums whose fi­nances oil our econ­omy gen­er­ally and the tex­tile in­dus­try, in par­tic­u­lar.

This trans­lates to rev­enue for govern­ment, job op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ba­sotho and fund­ing our so­cial up­lift­ment pro­grammes. This there­fore has a huge dent on our na­tional rev­enue, in a sim­i­lar man­ner like the with­drawal of the afore­men­tioned EU bud­get sup­port above.

MCA fu­ture in limbo The govern­ment of Le­sotho in 2007 signed the first com­pact of the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Ac­count (MCA) with the US govern­ment sub­sidiary known as the Mil­len­nium Chal­lenge Cor­po­ra­tion (MCC), which amounted to around M4 bil­lion in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance pro­grammes for Le­sotho cov­er­ing var­i­ous sec­tors in our econ­omy.

Th­ese pro­grammes in­cluded strength­en­ing the health sec­tor, na­tional ref­er­ence lab­o­ra­tory project, stu­dent dor­mi­to­ries and staff hous­ing at the Na­tional Health Train­ing Cen­tre and the ren­o­va­tion and ex­pan­sion of 14 hos­pi­tals as well as the con­struc­tion of 138 health cen­tres through­out Le­sotho.

Fur­ther­more, the MCA pro­grammes also in­cluded the con­struc­tion and con­veyanc­ing of the Me­to­long Dam and the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of ex­ist­ing in­fras­truc­ture, ru­ral wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion ac­tiv­i­ties as well as wet­lands restora­tion and con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­ity. As a re­sult of the MCA, most ru­ral Le­sotho vil­lages have ven­ti­lated pit la­trines.

The MCA also started ac­tiv­i­ties un­der the pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes land ad­min­is­tra­tion (Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity), mod­ern­iza­tion of the com­mer­cial le­gal sys­tem (the Com­mer­cial Divi­sion of the High Court), es­tab­lish­ment of the credit bu-

IN re­sponse to “Le­sotho gets ‘raw deal’ over LHWP” ( Le­sotho Times, 14 April 2016), if only the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) would erect a pipe­line through­out Le­sotho that runs through Mokhot­long, Thaba-tseka, Qacha to Quthing and one through Mabita, Leribe, Berea, Maseru, Mafeteng, Mo­hale’s Hoek I would be glad. Ntate-lehula Mohla­matsi Wa Mot­lokoa. reau, as­sist­ing in the pro­duc­tion and roll-out of the na­tional iden­tity card and strength­en­ing pay­ment of and set­tle­ment sys­tems and pro­vi­sion of train­ing and pub­lic outreach to sup­port gen­der equal­ity in eco­nomic rights.

To its credit, Le­sotho passed the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the first com­pact with fly­ing colours be­cause, much like AGOA, el­i­gi­bil­ity for the up­com­ing sec­ond com­pact of the MCA also de­pends on the ob­ser­vance of rule of law, gov­er­nance, trans­parency, hu­man rights, free-mar­ket econ­omy, cre­ation of job op­por­tu­ni­ties and lately, the MCC has placed as a pre-con­di­tion, which in my hum­ble view are not dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment.

In the in­terim, the govern­ment is still await­ing the fu­ture of the sec­ond MCA com­pact for Le­sotho with bated breath.

Re­pay­ment of MPS’ M32 mil­lion loan By virtue of their lofty po­si­tions, Mem­bers of the Eighth Par­lia­ment ac­cessed M500 000 in­ter­est-free loans dur­ing their ten­ancy with govern­ment as guar­an­tors with a cer­tain com­mer­cial bank. Fol­low­ing their fail­ure to ser­vice the loans, the govern­ment opted, amid pub­lic out­cry due to the dwin­dling cof­fers, to pay the loans on their be­half to the tune of M32 mil­lion. This pay­ment was made against the back­ground of the El-nino-in­duced drought and ram­pant poverty in the na­tion.

Govern­ment car rental con­tract Im­me­di­ately upon as­sum­ing of­fice, the govern­ment ter­mi­nated the ve­hi­cle rental and main­te­nance multi-mil­lion mal­oti con­tract of the pre­vi­ous sup­plier in favour of a new one un­der very sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances. De­spite the huge pub­lic out­cry, be­cause this con­tract never fol­lowed or­di­nary rules of pro­cure­ment, left out thou­sands of po­ten­tial Ba­sotho ser­vice pro­vides and in ef­fect fa­cil­i­tated flight of much-needed rev­enue to neigh­bour­ing South Africa, govern­ment nev­er­the­less went ahead with the con­tract.

Dwin­dling ter­tiary spon­sor­ship

I AM sur­prised the govern­ment is still so­lic­it­ing in­vest­ment “UK tour sab­o­tage falls flat: Mets­ing” ( Le­sotho Times, 14 April 2016). Aren’t th­ese the same peo­ple who told the Amer­i­cans they can do with­out African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) say­ing they have other means of sur­vival?

Now they have started fly­ing to coun­tries to seek fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and in­vest­ment. Why can’t they milk cows given their ar­ro­gance? Retetse Ma­sitise. At the be­gin­ning of the 2015-16 aca­demic year, the govern­ment, through its man­power de­vel­op­ment arm squab­bled with the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Na­tional Univer­sity of Le­sotho (NUL), ar­gu­ing that the lat­ter had ad­mit­ted more than the re­quired in­take of new stu­dents. This is de­spite the fact that the govern­ment could at least har­mo­nize its skilled man­power needs with NUL’S ca­pa­bil­i­ties. As a re­sult, the fu­ture of hun­dreds of stu­dents was left in limbo.

Huge de­fence bud­get In spite of be­ing com­pletely sur­rounded by South Africa, a country 30 times its size, and hav­ing no con­ceiv­able en­emy, Le­sotho spends more on de­fence per­cent­age-wise, than com­pa­ra­ble coun­tries with more ob­vi­ous se­cu­rity threats.

This fis­cal year’s de­fence bud­get is over M600 mil­lion, sur­passed only by Ed­u­ca­tion, Agri­cul­ture, Health and Po­lice, an anom­aly that given our country’s pe­cu­liar eco­nomic and ge­o­graphic po­si­tion is im­pos­si­ble to jus­tify.

Salary in­cre­ment for pub­lic ser­vants Amidst all the above sce­nar­ios that call for greater fis­cal dis­ci­pline and a rea­son­ably well-paid pub­lic ser­vice govern­ment has seen it fit to in­crease the salaries of pub­lic ser­vants by a mere four per­cent.

In a sce­nario that smacks of giv­ing with the left hand and tak­ing the same away with the right hand, taxes and prices of ba­sic food­stuff and ser­vices have shot through the roof with the net re­sult that the in­cre­ment has in ef­fect been neg­a­tive when jux­ta­posed against the sky-rock­et­ing prices.

No mean­ing­ful ef­fort to curb crime In my last col­umn, I de­cried the fact that crime, in par­tic­u­lar vi­o­lent crime and mur­der is on the in­crease yet both the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion are en­gag­ing in a ver­bal spat in the me­dia, try­ing to make po­lit­i­cal mileage, if any is made by this counter-pro­duc­tive trick, at­tack­ing each other about where the blame lies with the es­ca­lat­ing crime rate, while the na­tion and busi­ness are suf­fer­ing.

They are both just twid­dling their thumbs, so to speak, while our “Rome”, Le­sotho burns. No mean­ing­ful ef­forts are made to curb the crime rate.

In con­clu­sion, all th­ese sce­nar­ios and lethargy beg only one ques­tion that are our politi­cians driven by the de­sire for self-en­rich­ment rather than for the greater pub­lic good, on the ba­sis of the above sce­nario.

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