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Establish a sovereign wealth fund

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I’m still of the opinion that Minister Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane would perform exceptionally well as a Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Moreover, Minister Lejone Mpotjoane would be a star performer as a Minister of Trade and Industry. On the other hand, Minister Moleko would perform incredibly well as a Minister of Finance due to his background in auditing and finance.

Why do I say this? We desperately need Foreign Direct Investment. We urgently need this in order to revive the economy and who’d be best suited to source investment? Yes, you are correct, Dr Matlanyane.

I think we need to redefine roles and tasks of our traditional ministries. Traditional meaning the tasks we ordinarily know ministries to undertake. The status quo.

In my opinion, the primary task of foreign affairs and international relations should be to source Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Our embassies should be tasked with making direct contact with potential investors and sourcing skill.

For instance, do we have an embassy in South Korea? If not, why not? South Korea has become a global tech-hub. Why can’t we source investment and exchange skills with companies such as LG, Samsung and Hisense?

This is where Dr Matlanyane would come in and would receive resounding success as the ‘face’ of Lesotho.

We need to stop using foreign affairs as a portfolio intended to react to emergencies in South Africa. Well, as a primary role.

The same could be said about the Ministry of Finance. We need to redefine its purpose. I think it is time we start engaging a chartered accountant in the Minister of Finance’s activities.

I bring this up in reference to the mid-term budget that was presented last week, Friday, December 9, 2022. I disagree with the way the budget was presented. As I said, due to the rampant corruption as well as the ‘dry’ state coffers, the theme of the budget should’ve have been, ‘A statement of Financial Position’.

As I’ve previously highlighted, it’s time to apply basic accounting principles (IFRS). The Basic debit and credit entry. Basic T-account. What the Minister of Finance should’ve have tabled is a simple income and expenditure statement, thus far.

This would be very important to inform the next budget. She should’ve also started compiling the national Balance Sheet.

I mean, if you tell MPs that the GDP grew by 1.5% in the first quarter, you’re simply speaking Greek to them. Or speaking in tongues for that matter and I can bet that 70% of the MPs don’t even know what GDP stands for. We need to use simple language that a high-school student and a street vendor can grasp. KISS! (Keep It Simple and Straight to the point)

The statement of financial position would come in handy and help us immensely by informing MPs and the general public on the status of our finances.

For instance, how much cash do we have in our bank accounts? How many bank accounts does the state have? What is the value of our assets? What is the value of our liabilities?

But most importantly, we need to have a synopsis of our cash-flow position. I always tell people that, our biggest enemy is a mismatch between cash inflows and outflows. This is then loosely translated into cash-flow problems (’Muso ha o na chelete!)

I think this is what we need to solve as a matter of urgency and this is where the point of a sovereign wealth fund comes in.

If there’s an everlasting legacy that the Matekane administration needs to leave for this economy and generations to come, is a sovereign wealth fund. Yes, let’s name it Loti Fund.

This fund could catapult this economy out of its misery and place the country to a middle-income status.

Look, it really doesn’t make sense how Lesotho can become a low-income country, yet it is placed in the heart of a middle to high-income country. Right at the core! It means there’s something that Lesotho repeatedly get’s wrong.

Well, the answer is quite simple. Lesotho does not export. Remember, exports grow an economy. It’s either you export, or you perish. I mean, you can’t build an economy centred on government administration. It is wrong. We have to re-engineer and steer the ship towards exports.

But we need a starting point. I was quite impressed when Prime Minister Matekane insinuated that Basotho need to buy shares in the Lesotho Post Bank and I said, “Excellent!”

This could be a conversation that could spark an even greater conversation on how to establish a sovereign wealth fund.

I am not a fundamentalist by nature. I don’t hold on to things that do not work. I strongly believe that the Post Bank, BEDCO and the LNDC have long surpassed their mandate.

In fact, they reached their ceiling a long time ago just like the African National Congress. The mandate has become stale and it’s time to think of something bigger and stronger.

Yes, let’s sell shares in the Post Bank. However, let’s amalgamate the Post Bank with BEDCO and the LNDC and create one big strong and capable development/investment bank.

Then, list the new entity possibly named the Lesotho National Development Bank (LNDB) or Loti Bank (sounds a whole lot better), on the Maseru Securities Exchange (MSE).

As far as I can remember, there’s only one entity listed on the MSE and that’s RNB Properties. But this is wrong. We need more and more entities to list on the MSE.

Why not list the Standard Lesotho Bank? Why not list Letšeng Diamonds? Why not list Econet Telecom Lesotho. What about Nedbank Lesotho? All those entities are part-owned by the government of Lesotho.

Why not float the shares owned by the government of Lesotho in those entities and avail them to all Basotho nationals? Do you realise how much instant wealth this could create?

Do you also realise that we can easily establish a sovereign wealth fund from proceeds derived from the sale of those shares? Then, invest money from the fund globally.

This is how the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund named Norges Bank Investment Management Fund became the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. In the world! By the way, this

Loti Fund can actually be fused into the Loti Bank. You see!

Did you know that the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has a small stake in over 9,000 companies’ worldwide? Companies such as Apple, Nestle, Microsoft and Samsung. This is how wealth is created.

Imagine if the Loti Fund or Loti Bank were a shareholder in MTN since its inception? We’d all be s**ting ice-cream right now!

‘Mako Bohloa

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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