The government  has to be consistent

The government has to be consistent

If a parent tells his or her family that times are tough and it is now time to tighten the belt, children won’t expect to see the same parent wearing new shoes the following day. Or even worse, to be seen enjoying a street-wise-three meal somewhere at one of the shopping malls yet the kids went to school on empty stomachs.
You can’t have a parent that does not pay school fees yet they dress in new clothes. Well of-course, unless the parent is very careless and cruel. It would send a wrong message and confuse the children.

The parent has to maintain a certain level of standard until the situation has changed. The father or mother will have to be modest and prioritise on the wellbeing of the children first.
I had made a vow to stop writing opinion pieces after realizing that talking to our politicians is simply pointless. It is a well-known fact that our politicians don’t read and lack listening skills yet they know everything.
They also hate criticism and love to be praised and worshiped. They have become semi-gods. So, what’s the point of saying anything?

However, the events that took place in our country, over the past year or so, have irritated me to a point where I had to break my vow.
In the past twelve to fourteen months or so, the Lesotho Government came out of the closet to confirm what we had already suspected for sometime. It announced that is “broke” and that there was simply no money in its coffers.

The Lesotho Government made this announcement through the Ministry of Finance. I found it quite bold to admit once and for all that there is a dead rat in the house.
Our suspicions of government being broke had been going on for more that a year because of visible signs such as delayed payments to vendors, non-payment of vendors (tender-preneurs), lack of service delivery such as street lighting and road maintenance. It has been visible for sometime that our government is struggling to make ends meet.

I was also reliably informed that the government employees wage bill hovers around M500 million, every month. As a result of the high wage bill, the government has to play a balancing act of collecting revenue in order to meet the salaries of thousands of government employees.

That means the government has to allocate about six billion towards wages/salaries only, on an annual basis.
I applauded government for coming out clean in order to send shock waves to the entire country about the dire conditions of our economy. However, to my disappointment, the government says something and does the exact opposite of that.

How does the government claim to be poor and broke and spend millions on new luxury cars and opulent overseas trips? To me, it says that our government is not consistent in delivering its message. Is the Lesotho Government rich or poor?

I think it was probably at the time of the budget speech in 2018, when I saw a fleet of white Lexus vehicles entering the Maseru Border post. I later learnt that they were meant for the Principal Secretaries of the Lesotho government.

I was also told of a fleet of new Lexus luxury SUV’s that had been procured for the Prime Minister and his deputy.
As I was still in shock mode by that move, I also realised that slowly but surely, our ministers were starting to replace their Mercedes Benz E-class sedans with new ones.

We should also remember that most of them had already replaced their Land Cruiser V8’s to the new Land Cruiser Prados. Judges have also got their fair share of Toyota Prados as well. All of this tells me that the Government does not walk the talk.
Our Finance Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, repeatedly told Basotho citizens to expect tough times due to tough economic conditions ahead.

As a result of that we as the public have been expecting drastic cutbacks on luxuries such as cars, number of ministers, overseas trips and general wasteful expenditure such as maintenance of embassies and ambassadors.
Unfortunately the Government hasn’t lived up to its message or undertaking. We see a poor government that is acting rich yet is can’t even pay hard-working businessmen and women for services rendered.
The problem with overspending on luxury items during tough times leads to a spike in corruption. Civil servants go on a rampage to misuse tax-payers money because their principals can’t live by example.

That is the reason why we see double-storey houses (apple-stairs, as they are famously known) mushrooming all over the country. The national infrastructure on the other hand is in a rotten state. Look at the condition of our roads. What about the condition of our state-owned buildings!

The expenditure on luxury items also sends a very bad and confusing message to the poor and public at large. It also leaves a bitter aftertaste to hardworking people that are trying hard to make Lesotho work.
We are often told that the health of a country is measured on how it treats and takes care of its poor and most vulnerable citizens.

Lastly, the South African Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, recently announced that a “C-Class” is all a minister needs. Meaning that, if government is serious about cost cutting measures, all South African government ministers should be prepared to be driven around in Mercedes-Benz C-class vehicle for official purposes.

I applaud the move. A Mercedes C-class is good, comfortable, safe and very presentable. What do you need a bigger car for?

It is a well-known fact that Lesotho is a very poor country. A very poor country located in a rich country. Lesotho’s poverty has become a form of a curse. Isn’t it time we walk the talk as a nation.
If we are indeed poor, let’s not act rich at the expense of the poor.

By ‘Mako Bohloa

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