No land for de­vel­op­ment in Le­sotho

Lesotho Times - - Opinion&Analysis -

I WROTE this opin­ion piece in re­sponse to an ar­ti­cle I read in the Le­sotho Times of 29 June 2017 “Govt to re­vive Job Sum­mit process”. The ar­ti­cle was about plans Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moeketsi Ma­joro to re­vive the jobs sum­mit.

I thought I should take this op­por­tu­nity to share with Le­sotho Times read­ers about why it’s so dif­fi­cult to cre­ate jobs in Le­sotho. In­fact, it’s of­ten close to im­pos­si­ble to cre­ate jobs in the Moun­tain King­dom.

I al­ways find it as­ton­ish­ing to re­alise the level of un­der-de­vel­op­ment our coun­try suf­fers from yet it’s lo­cated right in the mid­dle of a world-class econ­omy.

What I also find most dis­turb­ing is the amount of land and prop­erty that the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho holds and is not pre­pared to de­velop or re-de­velop.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence of try­ing to de­velop prop­er­ties in Le­sotho, I think there are seven key ar­eas of con­cern, which im­pede eco­nomic growth and need to be ad­dressed ur­gently.

On my re­cent visit to Sand­ton, South Africa, I saw a wave of high-level con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity. There are new world-class build­ings mush­room­ing all over Sand­ton.

In some in­stances, solid struc­tures that are still in a good con­di­tion are be­ing de­mol­ished to make way for new build­ings. It was as if one was watch­ing a Sci-fi movie. The en­ergy in Sand­ton is so pos­i­tive and alive.

I asked one of the developers what trig­gered the sud­den boom in con­struc­tion of Agrade build­ings in Sand­ton, and why de­mol­ish build­ings that are still in a good con­di­tion. The an­swer was very sim­ple, “in or­der to get the econ­omy mov­ing”.

If prop­er­ties such as the Le­sotho Bank Tower or Vic­to­ria Ho­tel were lo­cated in Sand­ton, they would have been de­mol­ished to make way for new blue-chip prop­er­ties that are en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Sand­ton is all about op­ti­mi­sa­tion of space in the CBD. Each square me­tre has to gen­er­ate jobs.

From Sand­ton, I made a stop in Hat­field, Pre­to­ria. The last time I had been in Hat­field was about two and a half years ago but I got a sur­prise of my life be­cause things were very dif­fer­ent this time around.

For the ben­e­fit of read­ers that are not fa­mil­iar with Hat­field, it is a small town on the pe­riph­ery of the Pre­to­ria CBD, pre­dom­i­nantly owned by the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria. Hat­field is also a home to em­bassies from Africa and around the world. The univer­sity has in­vested heav­ily in shop­ping malls, stu­dent flats and of­fice blocks.

What im­pressed me the most was the de­vel­op­ment of new high-rise build­ings, ho­tels, stu­dent flats and the Gau­train sta­tion around the vicin­ity of the uni­vw­er­sity.

It’s im­pres­sive to see syn­er­gies be­tween the pri­vate sec­tor and an in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing. One also sees a vi­sion of the univer­sity to con­stantly de­vel­op­ing Pre­to­ria as a cap­i­tal city.

So, com­ing back home, things were very dif­fer­ent. Mostly dull and neg­a­tive. Most of the land is still owned by the gov­ern­ment or its agen­cies such as Le­sotho Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC) and Maseru City Coun­cil (MCC). Gov­ern­ment as a pol­icy maker of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and job cre­ation is do­ing quite the op­po­site of what it is meant to do.

Prob­lem 1: Hoard­ing of land and prop­er­ties The gov­ern­ment is very tight fisted when it comes to land and not pre­pared to de­velop gov­ern­ment is still not pre­pared to let go and let the pri­vate sec­tor step in. Se­condly, those sites have locked great po­ten­tial of gen­er­at­ing high pay­ing and high value jobs for Le­sotho’s youths.

I have also re­alised that prop­erty such as the Post Of­fice build­ing and Mo­poso house suf­fer ne­glect due to lack of main­te­nance. Gov­ern­ment must leave the busi­ness of busi­ness to the pri­vate sec­tor. Gov­ern­ment should only be con­cerned about the busi­ness of gov­er­nance and tax col­lec­tion.

Prob­lem 2. Hoard­ing of na­tional

as­sets by the LNDC Is it eth­i­cal for na­tional as­sets such as Basotho Can­ners, to be closed and stay idle yet thou­sands of young peo­ple and chil­dren go to bed on empty stom­achs?

A sec­ond point that I have no­ticed as an im­ped­i­ment to eco­nomic growth is of hoard­ing of na­tional as­sets by the LNDC. What is gov­ern­ment still do­ing in the busi­ness of busi­ness? Why is gov­ern­ment through its agency, LNDC, still a share­holder in the LNDC Cen­tre and fac­tory shells?

I un­der­stand that the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho has given LNDC a clear man­date to set up com­pa­nies and prop­er­ties such as the Brew­ery and prop­er­ties such as the LNDC Cen­tre.

The man­date fur­ther in­structs the LNDC to sell those as­sets to the pri­vate sec­tor in or­der to stim­u­late eco­nomic growth.

The LNDC is now go­ing for 40 years of ex­is­tence and still re­tains the bulk of the as­sets. Will we get an an­swer as to when the LNDC will off­load na­tional as­sets such as;

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