Lesotho abuses its business sector
TWO years from now, I will still be standing by my words that there is no country in the world that abuses and disrespects its business people (entrepreneurs) in the way that Lesotho does.
It is a well-known fact that the business sector is the lifeblood of any economy around the world. It is also common knowledge that entrepreneurs play a very vital role in any economy by generating taxes, creating jobs and developing a country, either by creating new infrastructure or educating citizens.
Without entrepreneurs, there wouldn’t be any tax revenue to build schools or to buy medicines for hospitals or to build the much needed roads. If entrepreneurs play such a pivotal role in making our economy work, why is it that Lesotho under values its private sector this much?
This opinion piece has been written in response to a press conference by the Ministry of Finance, in an effort to communicate to the public that Lesotho is flat broke. My response to the press conference is: why shouldn’t it be? Lesotho has every reason to be broke.
The main reason is that there are no entrepreneurs to generate tax. Lesotho’s tax revenue base is low because there are no entrepreneurs to start enterprises that create economic activity. It’s as simple as that.
Honourable Minister Keke Sello once made a very valuable comment that Basotho citizens must take cognisance to the fact that investors are very sensitive people when it comes to instability. Once they sense a glimpse of instability, they quickly shut down operations and move to a new place in order to avoid losses.
I totally agree with Minister Sello and would like to point out that, in the same token, entrepreneurs are equally as sensitive towards economic instability and a negative business environment. Hence why Lesotho has lost its best entrepreneurial brains to South Africa. As things stand, Lesotho loses its young talent to vibrant entrepreneurial hubs such as Sandton.
I once told officials from one government agency in Lesotho that we, the entrepreneurs, are not forced to operate in Lesotho. We are not compelled to operate in any geographic location.
Entrepreneurs are citizens of the world. We generally operate in a place that will offer the biggest return on investment. If Lesotho continues to play monkey games and give us the run arounds, we’ll simply pack our bags and move to a new location that has better opportunities. Lesotho is not doing us a favour. We are in business to make money and it is as simple as that.
I wrote this opinion piece in frustration of trying to operate a business in a depressed economy. Moreover, I wrote it in frustration of trying to operate a business in a toxic and negative environment towards businesses.
The amount of abuse that business people have to endure in Lesotho is shocking to say the least. Basotho business people have to operate business in an economy that is near collapse. At the same time, they have to sustain businesses in a very negative business climate mainly created by government.
I tried to not use negative language in writing this opinion piece but if there is one thing that makes me angry, is when efforts of people who try hard to make Lesotho work, are wasted in vain. We, the business people of Lesotho create enterprises out of nothing. We sacrifice so much for businesses to be sustainable and to keep people employed. But Lesotho thanks us by spitting in our faces.
We use very scarce resources and most often not existent funds to move and create something out of nothing. Some of us had to use family savings to travel far and wide package developments that will Lesotho to make a better place for all.
I am a property developer based in Maseru, Lesotho. Some of you will be shocked to know that a business proposal takes an average of three to five years to be approved.
It takes about 1.1 Million Maloti to package a proposal for a property development project. Those are proposals that are meant to create infrastructure development and create thousands of jobs in the construction industry. So tell me, which person, in their right minds, has the time and energy to chase after a project for five years?
In my experience of operating businesses in Lesotho, I would say that the biggest problem is lack of political will from our political leaders. This is not a smear campaign towards the 4x4 government but this is a general problem that exists in all of our governments in Lesotho. Our political leaders don’t know how to infuse energy and break barriers for projects to see the light of day.
Secondly, the public sector (civil service) is very negative towards the private sector (business sector). I always find this phenomenon fascinating and I am sorry if I’ll offend anyone who may take it on a personal basis. Let’s be honest, civil servants are paid salaries derived from taxes generated by the private sector.
If salaries of civil servants are derived from the blood sweat and tears generated by business people, then why do civil servants feel entitled to abuse business people as they do?
Thirdly, government does not honour promises made to the business sector. I find it sad that in this day and age, in the year 2018, business people have to use family savings to provide services to government and never get paid or most often, they get paid after a very long time, sometimes after a couple of years. It means government is operating on credit at the expense of the business sector.
If one would make a calculation of all the debt that government owes the private sector we would soon realize that Lesotho is actually a bankrupt state. The Lesotho government operates on credit at the expense of its citizens.
Let us all be honest, the fact that Lesotho fails collect tax revenue of about 7 Billion Maloti simply means that there is something seriously wrong with our economy and we can’t continue hiding away from the truth.
I haven’t written this opinion piece to discredit the new government. However, it is written to create awareness to all stakeholders in the public sector to realize the importance and value of the private sector. Lesotho will only be rescued by its private sector and not the public sector.
It is the role of the private sector to generate tax and not that of government. In fact, government should stay out of business. Government should also stay away from trying to generate jobs. That is the role of the private sector. Government has to ensure a free and fair playing field. We need a level playing ground. Government has to play a role of a referee.
Lastly, Basotho are not united in thought. We don’t speak the same language. Some citizens work hard to make this country work whilst oth- ers have made it a mission to destroy and frustrate all efforts made by business people.
Most readers will be shocked to know that there are government agencies that have staff members that have made it their mission to frustrate and block developments that are meant to create thousands of jobs. In short, those individuals are satanists because they are doing satans work of denying people hope.
As a closing point, unemployment is not a laughing matter and has to be declared a national crisis. We can’t have young people waking up everyday to doing nothing but waste oxygen. Jobs are a basic human right.
Young people deserve every right to be productive citizens of this country. Young people should be given opportunities that give them skills to prosper and be better people.
It is satanic for young people to be robbed of all hope and dreams of being better people in society. Most young people wonder about not knowing what the next day holds.
I still maintain my stance that if Lesotho fails to take care of its young people, then it should be prepared to open borders for incorporation into South Africa. We can’t deny our young people opportunities just because we have a stupid agenda of making Lesotho a sovereign state. An agenda that failed a long time ago.
We can’t go on like this. If the Lesotho government is sincere and really committed to defeating unemployment, then it’s about to time it walks the talk. It is pointless for government officials to appear on Lesotho Television telling us this and that about the National Development Plan. Real work is on the ground.
Government officials must be committed to service delivery. We can’t continue paying salaries to people that want to tour the world at our expense.
In the same token, our politicians must be fully committed to giving the business sector the much-needed political will. Lesotho cannot continue being the poorest state in the SADC region. We can’t go on like this.
Lesotho needs bold Entrepreneurs in order to survive! ‘Mako Bohloa Mazenod, Ha Sekepe.