Reforms must focus on the economy

Reforms must focus on the economy

We are experiencing very hard economic times characterised by high unemployment, falling average incomes, increased inequality, rise in poverty, less tax revenue. It is clear that our government needs a bailout if it is going to survive these tough times.
It also appears to me that we are in a recession and the impact of this recession depends on how long it will last and the depth of the fall in the GDP.

This country today has the highest wage bill per capita in sub-Saharan Africa. The wage bill stands at 18 percent of GDP. The bloated government wage bill has had a negative impact on the sustainability of the country’s growth trajectory. This country has never had time to build its economy in the past six years.
We have had three elections in the past six years. The only good thing our people have done in these past six years is to vote. The noble act of voting has done nothing for this country but to consume whatever little revenues and reserves Lesotho has.

I sincerely wish the current coalition government will last and hold on till the 2022 election. But unfortunately it’s in the nature of this beast called coalition government in Lesotho that we can expect that it will eventually collapse. It’s just a matter of when not if. Then our people will be expected to do more voting.
That will take yet another huge chunk from the government purse. This will result in yet another fruitless fat coalition government likely to collapse and lead to more voting followed by another unproductive fat coalition government that will also collapse and then voting again. We are going to be known as a voting nation.

The Government of Lesotho has disbursed around M1 billion to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to run the three past elections, which is way too expensive for our country’s ailing economy. I hope you see the pattern. Expensive elections that lead to voting, then an expensive, fat, corrupt, futile coalition government.
They start by fighting each other and abusing security forces. The people die then expensive commissions of enquiry are set up. Once they fight the government collapses, then more voting, that leads to another expensive, fat, corrupt, useless coalition government.

The government then absolves the M500k interest free loans for MPs and rewards them with the same packages that includes M500k interest free loans. We have lost close to M300 million of interest free loans to MPs in six years.

They fire Principal Secretaries, the police commissioner, army commander, Director of NSS, the Chief Justice and President of Appeal Court to create more court positions for their friends. Then they request for a SADC military intervention that has so far cost M280 million. There is no time to build an economy because all these expensive, fat, corrupt, unworkable coalition governments do not last long enough to actually finish their term!
As they form these useless coalition monsters, there are too many people the political elite are indebted to, who must be rewarded. Friends, campaign sponsors, wives, MPs all want their cut on the small dwindling cake.

To give everybody their cut, we begin to invent countless ministries to accommodate our acolytes. They even create a post for a Deputy Minister who deputises another Deputy Minister. Given the high unemployment rate, isn’t that one way of creating jobs? Most definitely, yes!
The political elite create jobs for themselves! Everyone is a minister.

The masses of our people, the voters, don’t get anything. The system has made our people to believe that voting is the only role they can play and they have no say in how this country has to be run. Once we have cast our vote, we feel helpless and we just watch the political elite do their thing.
We have become observers of our own development and when the political elite fail we blame ourselves for voting wrongly and think in the next election we shall fix the problem by voting differently.

For obvious reasons, that has not worked and to be frank it will never work. We must do more than just voting.
The buzzword lately is reforms. We are busy with reform talks and Lesotho’s economy is already on its knees. The coalition government doesn’t inspire confidence.
It does not do any justice to our precarious situation. I’m a mere mortal who’s trying very hard to understand what is going on in the mind of our political elite.

How will we get out of this economic mess when you have a Finance Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, who is still talking as if his political party is still in the opposition by emphasising the magnitude of the financial fiasco created by the previous government through the government fleet corruption saga?
Dr Majoro attributed the economic downturn in the construction industry which in turn affected the banking and insurance industries negatively. The irony of his statement baffles me.
The coalition government in the last two financial years has rewarded Chinese construction companies with tenders worth more than M2.5billion! And then they wonder why the banking and insurance industries are depressed?

The government must face the real problems of our economic downturn. The Chinese are the real problem. They are given jobs yet they don’t bank in this country!
About three months ago Dr Majoro confessed that “the government of Lesotho needs a bailout…we have dwindling reserves, and we risk not being able to honour our commitments in the short term”. A month later he revealed that “Lesotho is not broke”.

The two statements were from the same minister and were spoken in the space of two and half quarters, the latter being said two months ago!
We have got to become partakers of our own development. We must hijack the reforms and make sure we build strong state institutions that can make the political elite accountable. Let us turn the focus of our reforms to the economy.

Surely the security sector, the judiciary, the public service, the constitution and Parliament do not put bread on the table, to feed the masses of our people. Our political strife is not about security as such but about getting control of the limited resources of this nation.
We must incorporate in the economic reforms the Indigenous Mosotho Economic Empowerment programme. We must be intentional about the economic empowerment of our own people and build an inclusive economic growth that is able to create jobs for the masses of our people.
It’s about the economy, my friends!

By: Ramahooana matlosa

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