Ma­joro­nomics good for Le­sotho..

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

AL­LOW me to re­visit the na­tional bud­get issue even though I am a week late. Even though I en­tirely dis­agree with his ar­gu­ments, it was quite re­fresh­ing to read Ntate Mathi­beli Mokhotu’s cri­tique of Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moeketsi Ma­joro’s 2017/18 bud­get speech.

At the rate at which they are cur­rently go­ing, it seems the cur­rent crop of op­po­si­tion politi­cians will achieve dis­tinc­tions in terms of the shal­low­ness, hol­low­ness and sheer con­cav­ity of their ar­gu­ments. It will in­deed be a sad day if the cur­rent crop of op­po­si­tion lead­ers were to outdo one Bokang Ra­matšella or Mophato Monyake in be­ing daft.

I shall not dig­nify Ra­matšella any more by ever re­fer­ring to him in de­tail. But for those who have for­got­ten, Monyake, was that guy who was ig­no­min­iously fired from the first Tom Tha­bane coali­tion.

He then reincarnated as an op­po­si­tion leader, promis­ing to con­vert Le­sotho into a United States style fed­eral gov­ern­ment so that the head-boys and head-girls in Qacha can set up their own semi-au­ton­o­mous state and choose their own gov­er­nor to de­ter­mine the good des­tiny of their flocks of goats and sheep.

Monyake’s party sym­bol was a mid­dle fin­ger at the vot­ers. As fate would have hit, he got zero votes. Mean­ing that he even changed his mind about vot­ing for him­self on elec­tion day. He did not get a sin­gle vote. Af­ter Monyake, en­ter the Ra­mat­sel­las of this world and we have tales bet­ter for­got­ten than told.

If the cur­rent op­po­si­tion lead­ers want to be taken se­ri­ously and hope to ever win power again, they bet­ter get se­ri­ous. They bet­ter change course. And the re­spon­si­bil­ity of en­sur­ing that rests squarely on Ntate Mokhotu, the leader of the op­po­si­tion, who hails from the fallen Demo­cratic Congress (DC).

Even though I dis­agree with him, I thought Ntate Mokhotu’s cri­tique of Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get was re­fresh­ing. His crit­i­cism of the bud­get was constructive. He must thus en­sure that the rest of the op­po­si­tion em­u­lates him.

In his cri­tique, Ntate Mokhotu said Ntate Ma­joro had suc­ceeded in pin-point­ing the coun­try’s prob­lems but failed to ta­ble the so­lu­tions.

“A na­tional bud­get is a ma­jor tool that those in power use to ful­fil the prom­ises they made to the peo­ple who put them in power but then we do not find this bud­get to ad­dress such is­sues ex­cept for the M700 (up from M580 for the old age pen­sions which they al­lo­cated as promised….,” opined Ntate Mokhutu.

He went fur­ther; “Ntate Ma­joro is one of the most ed­u­cated peo­ple to hold the Fi­nance port­fo­lio and we had hoped he would be the per­fect can­di­date to show us how to boost the econ­omy….

“How­ever, he just tabled the prob­lems faced by the coun­try and not plans to erad­i­cate such prob­lems…..”

Ntate Mokhotu then cited Ntate Ma­joro’s pledge to im­prove in­fras­truc­ture with­out ex­plain­ing how to achieve that as an ex­am­ple of the short­com­ings of Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get speech.

He also cited Ntate Ma­joro’s fail­ure to ad­dress specifics on his plans to boost tourism and his fail­ure to pro­vide al­ter­na­tives to com­pen­sate for dwin­dling SACU rev­enues among ex­am­ples of other short­com­ings.

“To see a prob­lem and fail to pro­vide a so­lu­tion is no dif­fer­ent from com­pletely ig­nor­ing the prob­lem. It is not only about those in power but all of us have to help de­velop the coun­try…,” said Ntate Mokhutu in one of the best ever ob­ser­va­tions to come from our politi­cians.

I shall not seek to re­gur­gi­tate Ntate Mokhutu’s en­tire ar­gu­ment against Ntate Ma­joro. Suf­fice to say that I found it constructive in terms of how he iso­lated specifics that he felt had not been ad­e­quately dealt with. His crit­i­cism showed a deep un­der­stand­ing of the bud­get.

In the end, it can be ac­cepted that the role of the op­po­si­tion is to crit­i­cise in­cum­bents and keep them on their toes. But such crit­i­cism must be constructive and mean­ing­ful.

Ntate Mokhutu’s crit­i­cism was fair and bal­anced. How­ever, he was still wrong.

Hav­ing read all the bud­get state­ments in the last 10 years or so, Ntate Ma­joro’s speech was the best Ntate Mokhutu.

To un­der­stand this point, just read the cut and paste bud­get speeches pre­sented by your very own Mam­pono Khaketla from your very own DC.

In fact, if ever Ntate Mokhutu’s cri­tique is rel­e­vant, it has to be ap­plied to Mme Khaketla’s two cut and paste bud­get speeches, which must rank as the worst ever in the his­tory of fi­nance and economics the world over.

Iwill give one ex­am­ple. It is com­mon cause that at the cen­tre of Le­sotho’s eco­nomic prob­lems is the lack of in­no­va­tion which in turn trans­lates to lack of ac­tion­able ideas that lead to en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment, job cre­ation and wealth gen­er­a­tion.

Ntate Mokhotu is thus right to pin-point that Le­sotho’s poor ed­u­ca­tion is at the core of this and to state that Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get did not go far enough in ex­plain­ing how to re­form the coun­try’s un­ac­cept­able ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

But it is also true that the lit­tle money gen­er­ated in the econ­omy is pil­fered away by the gov­ern­ment on less pro­duc­tive needs.

This is where I found Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get to be most en­cour­ag­ing. They say a fish rots from the head. By tar­get­ing the head, Ntate Ma­joro was able to at least set in mo­tion the process of ar­rest­ing the coun­try’s fis­cal de­cay.

The huge ben­e­fits and amounts of money lav­ished on our politi­cians and se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are most un­de­served in a coun­try as poor as Le­sotho. If our politi­cians fail to lead by ex­am­ple, then noth­ing will ever change. Even South African min­is­ters don’t zoom around in plump Toy­ota V8s yet their econ­omy is sev­eral thou­sand times big­ger than Le­sotho’s.

One of Mme Khaketla’s bud­gets iden­ti­fied the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial profli­gacy as a ma­jor cause for worry. But what was her only so­lu­tion or at­tempt at aus­ter­ity? She an­nounced a ban on the gov­ern­ment’s pur­chases of copies of the Le­sotho Times and other news­pa­pers. Re­ally Mme Khaketla?

Scru­ta­tor would re­ally want to know how much you saved by ban­ning the pur­chase of copies of the Le­sotho Times and your dra­co­nian and il­le­gal mora­to­rium on advertising in this pop­u­lar news­pa­per?

I think when the his­tory of fi­nance min­is­ters of this coun­try is fi­nally told or writ­ten, Mme Khaketla will rank as the most in­com­pe­tent and worst ever Fi­nance Min­is­ter. Not only were her bud­get speeches cut and paste en­deav­ours, they were de­void of any economics and fi­nan­cial imag­i­na­tion and were supremely out­stand­ing in their hol­low­ness.

I just can­not un­der­stand what Ntate Mo­sisili smoked when he sur­mised Mme Khaketla could be an ef­fec­tive fi­nance min­is­ter.

It came as no sur­prise to Scru­ta­tor that in­stead of run­ning fis­cal pol­icy ef­fi­ciently, Mme Khaketla im­me­di­ately found fame or in­famy over the Bid­vest scam and the M4 mil­lion brief­case; thanks to the rev­e­la­tions by Ntate Thuso Litjobo. This is not to com­pletely trash Mme Khaketla. In­deed she is an ed­u­cated woman with a doc­tor­ate in some­thing and she cut her teeth in life as a teacher. But she should never have been de­ployed any­where near the na­tional fis­cus be­cause she lacked the knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence and economics ed­u­ca­tion.

To his credit, Ntate Mo­sisili re­alised his mis­take and re­moved her. But then to Scru­ta­tor’s huge sur­prise, in­stead of re­deem­ing him­self by giv­ing us a se­ri­ous ap­point­ment with the req­ui­site ex­pe­ri­ence in fi­nance, money and economics, Ntate Mo­sisili went a worse step fur­ther by trans­form­ing him­self from a Jane Fonda into a com­plete Dr Strangelove.

This he did by giv­ing us Ntate Tlo­hang Sekhamane as our new Min­is­ter of Fi­nance. What is it about Ntate Mo­sisili and his mis­ap­point­ments of fi­nance min­is­ters?

There is no doubt that Ntate Sekhamane was and is a good hu­man be­ing. As gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary, he did a fairly rea­son­able job. But his ap­point­ment to the fi­nance port­fo­lio was wholly un­de­served.

Some of you may say this crit­i­cism is un­fair be­cause Ntate Sekhamane never re­ally got to present a bud­get. In fact Ntate Te­boho Sekata of the Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) at­trib­uted Ntate Ma­joro’s good bud­get speech to Ntate Sekhamane.

“This is the bud­get that we have pre­pared for this fis­cal year (2017/2018) but failed to present it due to the change of the gov­ern­ment…,” opined Ntate Sekata.

That may be par­tially true. It would be folly not to be­lieve that Ntate Sekhamane and his bu­reau­crats did not do the ground­work for Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get.

But would they have been so frank to go as far as cit­ing the break­down in the rule of law in Le­sotho, lack of ac­count­abil­ity, among many other vices, iden­ti­fied by Ntate Ma­joro, as be­ing at the core of Le­sotho’s lack of eco­nomic progress. I don’t think so.

Would Ntate Sekhamane also have been bold enough to tar­get all the un­war­ranted perks of his bosses and fel­low politi­cians as an ex­am­ple of lack of fis­cal pru­dence? I doubt that as well. In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, the fi­nance port­fo­lio is the most de­mand­ing if not the most im­por­tant cab­i­net port­fo­lio. It re­quires a deep un­der­stand­ing of in­ter­na­tional economics and the world’s com­plex fi­nan­cial and en­ter­prise sys­tem.

It re­quires ex­po­sure to the work­ings of the global trade and fi­nan­cial sys­tem. Hav­ing cut her teeth as a teacher, per­haps some­where in the moun­tains, and not hav­ing any ex­po­sure in the work­ings of any global eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions, Mme Khaketla lacked the very ba­sics to work as po­lit­i­cal head of fi­nance. So was Ntate Sekhamane.

By Ntate Mokhutu’s own ad­mis­sion, Ntate Ma­joro is highly qual­i­fied and has worked in key global fi­nan­cial en­ti­ties that have given him the best ex­po­sure to un­der­stand how an econ­omy func­tions.

In the end, Ntate Ma­joro’s bud­get speech might not have been per­fect, but it was deeply hon­est and a good start­ing point.

It prof­fered a proper di­ag­no­sis of Le­sotho’s eco­nomic ills. As ac­knowl­edged in a com­men­tary in the Le­sotho Times last week, the theme of the bud­get “Pur­su­ing fis­cal sus­tain­abil­ity within the con­text of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and in­se­cu­rity” was hon­est enough. It speaks to what is at the core of Le­sotho’s sus­tained eco­nomic de­cline. This was cer­tainly not Ntate Sekhamane’s idea. I chal­lenge him to prove me wrong.

Ntate Ma­joro rightly iden­ti­fied ram­pant cor­rup­tion and lack of ac­count­abil­ity, fis­cal mis­man­age­ment (the gov­ern­ment has never re­ceived a clean au­dit), un­re­strained ex­pen­di­ture on un­nec­es­sary lux­u­ries for our top politi­cians and se­nior civil ser­vants, a bloated pub­lic and spec­tac­u­larly in­com­pe­tent civil ser­vice, a cul­ture of im­punity and com­plete break­down in the rule of law (thanks largely to the pre­vi­ous coali­tion gov­ern­ment) among the many vices hold­ing this coun­try back.

To begin to ad­dress th­ese draw­backs, Ntate Ma­joro of­fered a cred­i­ble aus­ter­ity pro­gramme. If fol­lowed it could be the be­gin­ning of good things to come. Of course more will be re­quired.

Per­haps Ntate Mokhotu missed the point, but Ntate Ma­joro did ex­plain that this was a tran­si­tional bud­get and could not en­com­pass all the prom­ises of the June 3 elec­tions. I have no doubt that his next bud­get speech will be bet­ter.

But the crux of the mat­ter is in un­der­stand­ing that it’s not Ntate Ma­joro’s role alone to pre­scribe so­lu­tions to ar­rest­ing Le­sotho’s sus­tained slide into squalor. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of all of us. Which is why Ntate Mokhutu is also right in say­ing “it is not only those in power but all of us have to help de­velop the coun­try….”

Therein lies the crux of the mat­ter. Ntate Ma­joro was frank about the prob­lems and prof­fered some so­lu­tions. Ntate Mokhotu is right that we all have to work to­gether. So can we please have the action?

We all know what needs to be done. So why not get on with it. We know that SADC rec­om­mended re­forms must be im­ple­mented. So why the stu­pid­ity of the op­po­si­tion in threat­en­ing to de­rail the re­form process be­cause Ntate Tsooana is back as a PS?

We don’t have time for such dance acts? Ntate Mokhutu is right that we must work to­gether. Ntate Ma­joro is dead right in bring­ing us Ma­joro­nomics. I be­lieve this is the brand of economics that will save us. Ntate Ma­joro de­serves our sup­port. Let’s all sup­port Ma­joro­nomics.


Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moeketsi Ma­joro.

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