the task at hand is clear

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

THE lat­est Fitch out­look on Le­sotho’s econ­omy holds very lit­tle sur­prises for any ob­server of lo­cal cur­rent af­fairs. In fact, it by and large re­it­er­ates what many global agen­cies have posited about the econ­omy’s per­for­mance.

As re­ported in this edi­tion, Fitch re­vised down­wards the coun­try’s long-term for­eign cur­rency Is­suer De­fault Rat­ing (IDR) from ‘BB-’ to ‘B+’ sta­tus. The long-term lo­cal cur­rency IDR was also re­vised down­wards from ‘BB’ to a ‘BB-’ sta­tus.

Among the rea­sons for the down­grade are the de­clin­ing South African Cus­toms Union (SACU) rev­enues and the slow­down in re­gional hub, South Africa’s econ­omy. The ef­fect of dwin­dling SACU rev­enues was the con­tin­ued de­cline in public fi­nances re­sult­ing in a widen­ing fis­cal deficit. The agency also notes that the un­sus­tain­ably high gov­ern­ment wage bill was also tak­ing its toll on the econ­omy’s per­for­mance.

How­ever, the havoc po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity was wreak­ing on the econ­omy is cer­tainly the ma­jor take home from Fitch’s out­look. The agency notes that po­lit­i­cal ten­sions were com­pli­cat­ing any pol­icy re­sponse to the grow­ing fis­cal deficit. In essence, the con­tin­ued ruckus was crip­pling the gov­ern­ment’s at­tempts to re­dress some of the chal­lenges the econ­omy is fac­ing.

Fitch also states that the po­lit­i­cal ten­sion had neg­a­tively af­fected in­vest­ment, con­sump­tion and con­fi­dence as well as re­tarded the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Na­tional Strate­gic Devel­op­ment Plan. Re­sul­tantly, gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) growth and po­ten­tial ex­ter­nal fi­nan­cial sup­port from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity were also de­pressed.

De­spite spir­ited at­tempts by some to dis­miss the neg­a­tive ef­fects of the in­sta­bil­ity on Le­sotho’s ad­vance­ment, the Fitch out­look is yet an­other com­pelling mes­sage to the con­trary.

We are cer­tainly liv­ing in tough times, and all th­ese chal­lenges re­quire a gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion fo­cused on the task of al­le­vi­at­ing the peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing and not at each other’s throats. An all hands on deck ap­proach is the rem­edy Le­sotho needs to not only emerge from this dif­fi­cult pe­riod, but also be­come a ma­jor eco­nomic player.

For Le­sotho to cre­ate a pros­per­ous and sus­tain­able econ­omy, there is an ur­gent need for eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. It is thus in­cum­bent for the gov­ern­ment, pri­vate sec­tor, work­ers, me­dia and civil so­ci­ety to play mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing roles.

An­other crit­i­cal stake­holder in as­sist­ing Le­sotho’s ad­vance­ment are devel­op­ment part­ners. In all fair­ness, our devel­op­ment part­ners have given us am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­dress the gover­nance con­cerns they have raised. Given what Le­sotho stands to lose from the sus­pen­sion of aid, this is an op­por­tu­nity we can ill-af­ford to miss.

It, thus, does not re­quire a rocket sci­en­tist to de­ci­pher that en­sur­ing peace and tran­quil­lity should rank highly among the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties. This en­tails avoid­ing need­less an­tag­o­nism with dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers in the coun­try’s body politic such as the op­po­si­tion or any other per­ceived foes. The poi­sonous pol­i­tics of us and them needs to be done away with as a mat­ter of ur­gency. Af­ter all, we all should be pulling in the same di­rec­tion to at­tain the as­pi­ra­tions of the long suf­fer­ing pop­u­lace.

Ac­cord­ing to Fitch, Le­sotho would need to dras­ti­cally im­prove its busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity as well as en­sure the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion in the econ­omy to en­sure a pos­i­tive rat­ing ac­tion.

What that means is that the fun­da­men­tals need to be ad­dressed be­fore any drives by the gov­ern­ment to so­licit for­eign and do­mes­tic in­vest­ment can bear mean­ing­ful fruits. Only un­der a pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal frame­work can the eco­nomic pol­icy and in­sti­tu­tional changes needed to build the econ­omy be ef­fected. In a thriv­ing econ­omy, cit­i­zens see the folly of fight­ing each other and fo­cus on ex­ploit­ing the eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore them. How­ever, if poverty and de­pri­va­tion re­main the or­der of the day, un­rest will con­tinue to the detri­ment of eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

That is why we be­labour the point that Le­sotho has an op­por­tu­nity, with the Phumaphi SADC Com­mis­sion of In­quiry re­port, to slay the spectre of in­sta­bil­ity once and for all by im­ple­ment­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions.

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