Le­sotho abuses its busi­ness sec­tor

Sunday Express - - HAVE YOUR SAY -

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.

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