Future belongs to leaders who put their people first!

Future belongs to leaders who put their people first!

IT seems Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is now a globetrotter.
Last month he travelled the United Nations General Assembly in New York to address world leaders while back home his government face a financial crisis, people are starving, unemployment continues to rise, teachers are striking and the economy is imploding.

His bloated entourage cost the government more than M5 million, according to media reports that his government has not refuted.
The government has not provided a clear justification for sending such a huge entourage at such a massive cost when the country is broke. We have not been told why the government found it necessary to spend millions on international trips when its coffers are empty.
My suspicion is that the prime minister just wanted to be seen to be participating at an international event. The cost of that participation, it would seem, did not matter to him.

And that is precisely because he wasn’t spending his own money. I doubt he would have attended that junket if he was paying from his pocket.
It is however telling that at the same event the United States President, Donald Trump, said the future belongs to “patriots” and not “globalists”.
“Wise leaders always put the good of their own people and their own country first,” Trump said.

“The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbours and honour the differences that make each country special and unique.”
I don’t suppose that African leaders like Thabane got that message loud and clear.
Yet even closer, home there are signs that countries are focusing on empowering their people.

Zimbabwe, for instance, has an indigenisation law that tries to empower its people and restrict foreign participation in certain sectors reserved for locals.
You may have reservations about that law and its impact, but the point remains that a government recognises that its economy cannot be free for all.
That is why you will not find foreigners in Zimbabwe’s transportation sector (passenger buses, taxis and car hire services), retail and wholesale trade, barber shops, hairdressing and beauty salons, employment agencies and grain milling.

You will not find foreigners in tobacco grading and packaging, advertising agencies, arts and crafts, marketing, distribution and artisanal mining.
Others will argue that the idea of indigenisation and economic empowerment could scare off potential investors but empowerment laws in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe were found to have the potential to uplift the unprivileged and previously disadvantaged locals.

These countries know that without some form of protection their local businesses will be overrun by foreign businesses. They have understood that the world is unfair and they have to protect their own people.
The same cannot be said for our government which has open doors for foreigners to enter every sector. The result of that blind policy is that Basotho do not have control of their economy or even a small part of it.  The Chinese own tenders, retail, wholesale, wool, mohair, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, bottled water and the only abattoir. The Indians own retail, prime land and estates in most towns in Lesotho.

The South Africans own our water, mining supply chain and big retail shops. Canadians, British and Australians own our diamonds.
It is time we protect certain sectors of our economy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that, especially in this dog-eat-dog world.
For once as a nation, we need to be looking inward and considering our own interests first. Lesotho cannot transform itself into a developed country if it does not look inward. History is full of examples of countries that have looked inwards and used domestic resources — both natural and human —to develop their economies. This has been done in India, Ethiopia, Botswana, Rwanda, China, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and many other countries.

Those countries have developed by empowering their own people, not foreigners.
They understood that while focusing on attracting foreign investment they should never close doors to their own citizens.
Remember Ethiopia took unilateral decision in 2011 to construct on the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is currently under construction.
When completed, the dam will have installed capacity to generate 6000 MW electricity to relieve Ethiopia’s acute energy shortage and also export to neighbouring countries.

The cost of the project is estimated at 3,4 billion Euros, which the world financial institutions such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) refused to fund.  It was entirely financed by the Ethiopian government and support from its people within and outside the country.
I hope that as we negotiate to sell our water to Botswana we remember this Ethiopian example.
It’s not as if our prime minister is short of examples to follow when it comes to putting his people and country first.

Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli, has championed austerity measures and he did not go to the last UN General Assembly. Instead, he sent a minister to represent him.
When asked why he sent a minister Magufuli said: ‘‘He (the minister) has just arrived from the UN summit where he represented me, saving the government money. This is because sending a minister and his assistant is less expensive than sending the president and his delegation.’‘

Our own prime minister could have done the same and saved millions for his country and people.
We must admit as Basotho that we lost it somehow and allowed foreigners to own and control our economy. Basotho are disempowered and disenfranchised in their own country.
We are oppressed by our leaders who have sold their souls to the highest bidder. As such, our people live in abject poverty.

It is time for Basotho to benefit for their resources and opportunities. But in seeking to achieve this empowerment, we should be fair and transparent. We should never allow narrow political interests to cloud our vision.
It should be broad-based empowerment.
This business of parcelling out resources and opportunities to party members, relatives and friends will only lead to more inequality and poverty.
We need leaders who understand that Lesotho has two million citizens, not a handful of party supporters who happen to be closer to the feeding trough.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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