The budget in perspective

The budget in perspective

I want to believe that a budget speech is the most popular speech in any country. It is so popular that even those people who are naturally never interested in national issues take their time to listen.

Through my own experience, I have noticed that the most attention-grabbing part is often about remuneration, that is salary increment for civil servants. As long as we have heard how much will be the salary increment or if there is any tax adjustment we are often content.
However, there is more to the Budget speech than just how much civil servants will get. I am no economist, and as such my analysis will not be from the perspective of experts.
The theme for this year’s Budget Speech was “Inter-ministerial collaboration, multi-disciplinary approaches and sustainable and subsidiary to tackle poverty, malnutrition, and joblessness focusing on service delivery at the local level.”

As I look at this theme, I anticipate a lot. I also foresee a lot of progress coupled with prosperity in the horizon. My hope emanates from the fact that the government now seems to understand that there is need for inter-ministerial collaboration. Lesotho is a very sad case of a state where ministries work in silos.
The people struggle to get even basic services because ministries operate like different countries. Now that the government feels there is need for ministries to work together I anticipate an improvement in service delivery, and that is provided the government lives up to its promise. After all, we are a country that is notorious for making good plans that we often dismally fail to implement.

Talking of our culture of poor or apparent lack of implementation of strategies, plans and policies, as I continued listening to Dr Majoro, I nearly choked as he referred to Lesotho Vision 2020. This is because every time when that document is mentioned, I get a very clear picture of what failure to implement plans means.
In his speech the Minister alluded to the undertaking of “an assessment of our performance on this long-term goal.” My question is do we really need that assessment? Even Dr Majoro himself in his speech, without having undertaken any assessment, knows that we performed badly with regard to the implementation of the Vision 2020. Anyway I would like to leave the issue of Vision 2020, as I have dealt with it too much in the past articles.

The theme also mentions tackling poverty. This is indeed an area of concern among Basotho as most of them are living below the poverty datum line. In fact the scourge of poverty could also be traced to the policy and regulations that forced wool and mohair farmers to sell their produce locally.
It should be noted that personally, I do not have a problem with Lesotho selling its products locally. In fact, I am totally in support of the localisation of the sales of wool and mohair.

However, I am also not in agreement with giving a single person or company monopoly of the business. We are in the 21st century and we should not be entertaining monopolies in certain areas. We should be striving for open markets where every player is at liberty to engage in business with whoever they feel comfortable with.
Monopolising the wool and mohair trade has landed us in hot water. We have to find the money to pay off farmers. We have to bail out Stone Shi. It is in very bad taste that the government finds itself having to bail out an “independent international trader” at the expense of Basotho and their development.

The money that the government will use to pay Shi’s debts could have been put to better use, such as building a bridge over the Senqu River near Tebellong Hospital. It would have been in the best interest of the government to investigate the problems that led to the 100 percent failure of JC students at several schools in the country and what remedies should be put in place instead of tackling the problems that private businesses encounter.

Unless there is something that we do not know as Basotho, I really fail to understand why Lesotho’s governments, both present and past, always make it their business to come to the financial aid of Chinese nationals yet they cannot do the same for Basotho businesses.
During the reign of Hon Pakalitha Mosisili the government bailed out a factory that was on the verge of closing to the tune of around M30 million. Now the Hon Thomas Thabane-led coalition is bailing out a Chinese national who failed to give wool and mohair farmers their money, even though he has ‘sold their produce’ at international markets. Both these governments never lifted a finger to help Thebe-ea-khale to pay the many Basotho he owed millions of Maloti.
In a nutshell, as I look at the 2020/2021 Budget Speech, I do not see much hope for Basotho. I see the same old story challenges in terms of failure of implementation.

Kelello Rakolobe

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