Prioritise the nation’s interests
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.