The idea of the UIF is ‘okay’ but not well timed

The idea of the UIF is ‘okay’ but not well timed

Hearing Honourable Sam Rapapa (undoubtedly one of our more progressive MPs), introduce in parliament the idea of an Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in Lesotho, excited me.  This proved to me that not all our MPs are in slumber. Some are earning their keep.
We need to see presented and discussed in parliament, more of the sort of Honourable Sam Rapapa’s ideas and thinking.

However, I am not convinced that setting up an UIF now, is in our national interest. What we need instead, and as a matter of urgency, are radical policies to transform the economy.
Don’t get me wrong, the relief that an UIF provides when someone has lost their job makes a big difference to a household’s welfare.
However, this is not going to impact the thousands of unemployed people in this country. I therefore don’t think that this should be a priority right now.

When you have an economy projected to grow at only 3.5 percent when over 50 percent of the population remains unemployed, there can be no greater priority than to grow the economy and to create jobs for our people.
My concern is that unemployment insurance funds are not designed to create jobs, nor are they designed to prevent existing jobs being lost.
Let alone the fact that unless there is growth in the economy, this thing will be stillborn.
Reducing unemployment should be our focus. Because unless we do that, we could have a time bomb on our hands. Our chronic instability will worsen and eventually consume us.

Remember, the major root causes of the instability in this country, are associated with having a small “pie” we must all share. The problems arise because some are greedy and want to eat alone and to leave crumbs for the rest of us.
We all have a right to a comfortable life. The good life should not be reserved only for the few with direct access to state resources or those with connections to those who control state resources.

To increase the size of the pie, the economy must be transformed to mainstream in economic activity, currently marginalised sections of the population e.g. our youth, women, unskilled workers, and rural communities.
This will require Lesotho to have sound economic policies, programmes and plans. This is something we are missing today.
There is nothing in parliament to suggest that government and our tenth parliament appreciate the seriousness and undesirability of high unemployment.

I am not seeing evidence that the eradication of this scourge is being prioritized.
Introducing an unemployment insurance fund in Lesotho is not prioritizing the eradication of this scourge. This is not a radical and creative response to our high unemployment. It’s carrying on with business as usual.
We voted for change and not for the continuation of Pakalitha Mosisili and his cronies’ stale policies which failed to grow the economy and to create jobs.

Judging by how things are progressing now, the dismal growth trajectory we saw under the Liphiri reign is set to continue.
As a simple Mosotho man, I would like our MPs to hold off on the UIF thing and to instead consider some of the following:

l policies to better leverage public procurement for the benefit of Basotho (in particular our youth and women),
l a fund to support Basotho to play a more leading role in the manufacturing sector,
l targeted programmes to assist Basotho to set up businesses and cooperatives,
l measures to open up the supply chain in the private and public sectors to benefit Basotho,
l increasing market opportunities for goods and services produced in Lesotho,
l policies to raise the level of investment in our economy,

· policies to prioritise localisation (sourcing inputs locally and not abroad) so that we maximize employment multipliers and skills transfer,
l policies to stamp out monopolistic practices to make the economy more competitive and inclusive,
l policies to reduce and remove high entry barriers to key sectors of our economy,
l policies to improve our integration into the African economy,
l policies to make employment less costly,

l policies to increase and promote investment in agriculture,
l policies to deepen linkages between mining and other sectors of the economy,
l policies to broaden access to banking services of poor people to the finance sector.
A lot of these ideas were contained in the Budget Speech 2017/2018. So, I am not suggesting anything original.

I am simply emphasising the need for the executive and parliament to channel their energies to efforts and initiatives that will cause the economy to grow and therefore to create much needed job opportunities.
I am not convinced that an Unemployment Insurance Fund falls in that category.

Poloko Khabele

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