No land for development in Lesotho
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;