Transforming  the structure  of our economy

Transforming the structure of our economy

AT some point every political columnist finds himself facing the danger of endlessly ranting about the ills of a country without offering solutions.
That is because it is much easier to identify problems than finding solutions.
Over the past few months I have found myself complaining about corruption, maladministration, poverty, famine, poor leadership and disasters.
This week I want to suggest a possible way to fix this mess.
I do so as an observer, not an expert.
I am going to focus on reforming the structure of our economy.
“Then I said to them, You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”
Those words are from Nehemiah 2:17.

Nehemiah was making a clarion call to his people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
The wall of Jerusalem was broken down when Judah was destroyed in BC 586. The temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel in BC 516 but the wall remained in ruins for 140 years.
The Israelites had tried to build the wall but enemies broke and burned it several times. Satan had worked hard to prevent them from rebuilding it.
The wall of Jerusalem was like a shield that protected the lives and faith of the Israelites. The pride of the Israelites as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation collapsed along with it.
The glory of God among the people also collapsed but no one dared to rebuild the wall. But Nehemiah challenged his people to rebuild it. It is said that God blessed his faith, and the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt within 52 days.

The wall had remained in ruins for 140 years.
It is clear that everything is possible when we have faith.
Today, we are living in an economically troubled country.
Our leaders are vulnerable to Chinese bribes and temptations.
The roof of this nation is on the verge of caving in.
Suppose this the time we need the transformational and revival spirit of Nehemiah.
Our economy was colonially structured to rely on exports of raw materials and primary goods while importing finished goods.
The colonial masters became rich by diversifying trade within their cities and creating synergies. Holland, England, and France, developed through these rounds of diversification and industrialisation protected by government intervention.

Holland followed the process through ship-building. England started with wool, and later cotton, coming to dominate Europe’s fabric markets.
Each realised that selling finished products was more profitable than selling raw materials. To protect their industries, they used tariffs and monopolies.
It was England’s planned shift from selling raw wool to selling finished cloth that set it on the road to development.
Like all poor nations, Basotho export raw materials such as wool, water, mohair, medicinal plants and raw diamonds. Rich countries export – often to us poor countries – more complex products such as chocolate, clothes, shoes, cars, and jewels.
If we want to get rich as Basotho, we should stop exporting our resources raw and concentrate on adding value to them. Otherwise, rich countries will get the lion’s share of the value and all of the good jobs.
We should make sure that there is production of finished goods locally.

With this current trend of exporting raw materials, Lesotho will never grow their economy and create employment.
We must focus on four areas: transforming the structure of our economy, infrastructure, education and skills development. All these should be geared towards making products from our own raw materials.
We must do everything possible to take back the wealth that rightfully belongs to us as Basotho from the Chinese. Our country has been heavily dependent on the export of raw commodities because colonial master’s agents (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) made sure we continued to export raw materials only to buy them back when they are finished products.
I strongly believe that the next stages of economic growth will require much greater attention to the work of ‘adding value’ to raw products, commodities and services as a means of accelerating job creation and promoting higher profit margins and return on investment.

Basotho must know that when we add value, we retain not just the financial value in the country, but we also create jobs and businesses that pay more taxes. That is the only way we will transform our economy.
It is high time we focus our efforts on building industries, skills and technologies so they can produce our own high quality products. We must invest in the creation of small-scale industries that add value to our products, whether agricultural or mineral.
Yet this will not be easy because apart from failing to create industries we have also neglected to focus on the quality of the few products that we make.
To add value in this country, we should embrace standards and applied scientific research. We must seriously invest more in skills related to science, research, technology and innovation.
The blankets that we like so much are almost entirely made of wool (88% wool and 12% cotton).  We export wool and it comes back mixed with little cotton to create a blanket. Upon arrival here we name them moholobela, lekhokolo, serope, motlotlehi and seanamarena. It’s a shame and disgrace that blankets have become part of our everyday life, a status symbol and cultural identification yet we import them.
Our politics have lost meaning. Our economy is ailing. Come, let us rebuild this blessed country of King Moshoeshoe and we will no longer be the laughing stock of Africa.

Ramahooana Matlosa

Previous Spy strike rocks government
Next Heads must roll

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