I don’t need a bailout, says Shi

I don’t need a bailout, says Shi

MASERU-STONE Shi, the controversial wool broker, says he doesn’t need the government’s help to pay wool and mohair farmers.
And he says the government’s claims that he cannot pay farmers are meant to defame him and his company, Maseru Dawning. He accuses Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro of trying to sabotage his business.

Shi was responding to Dr Majoro’s budget announcement that the government will fork out M8 million to pay wool and mohair farmers he failed to pay.
The money is effectively a bailout for Shi and his company.
But a seemingly furious Shi this week told thepost that doesn’t need any bail out to pay the farmers.

He said he is shocked that the government is offering help that he has not requested.
“Majoro knew well enough that I have received the money but (he) decided to freeze it so that he could deliver his speech during the budget speech to defame me,” Shi said.
He said the Chinese buyers deposited United States dollars into the Maseru Dawning’s account at the Central Bank of Lesotho.

Financial regulations however do not support Shi’s claim that his company has an account with the Central Bank. Companies don’t hold accounts with the central bank but with commercial banks.
Shi however insisted that the money came through his account at the central bank.
“Majoro knew that the money had arrived and he wanted the LRA to write a letter to me asking about where I got the money.”
He said he started paying the farmers a day after the budget.

“I do not know why the government decided to hold our money before the budget speech and release it after the speech.”
“Minister Majoro wanted to destroy my business for his own benefit. He has shown more interest in my business,” Shi said.
“He (Dr Majoro) wanted me to sign for an agreement that he will pay the farmers, and all my properties will be taken by the government if I fail to pay these farmers. I refused to sign that document because I knew that I have the money.”

He said Majoro wanted to give the “impression that the government was paying farmers with public money yet the money they would be paying those farmers would be mine”.
“I have been silent for a long time hoping things will be okay but instead my name is being tarnished and people are being fed false information about what transpired by the people who know the truth but wanted to push their agendas,” he said.

“The bail-out story is a lie. I have the money and farmers are already receiving their payments.”
Dr Majoro however said Shi is not telling the truth.
“This is a classic case that once again demonstrates that governments should always avoid picking winners in investment promotion efforts,” Dr Majoro said.
“Governments should never target specific companies, but rather should focus on preparing industrial playing fields.”

He said the decision to “bail” out Basotho farmers was proposed jointly with Small Businesses Minister Chalane Phori to the cabinet.
“The cabinet then referred the matter to the relevant sub-committee of ministers which recommended back to cabinet that Basotho should be paid from government coffers if the company was not able to pay,” he said.

“The decision to pay farmers for me as Finance Minister and to find the funds for this exercise was fully and formally authorised by Cabinet.”
“Suggesting that I have a personal interest in his business is patently false and must be taken to mean that everyone else who supported the decision has an interest in that business.”

Dr Majoro said Shi does not have a bank account at the Central Bank of Lesotho.
“Even if he held one, I would not be able to direct the Bank to freeze his accounts. It is thus patently false that his money was deposited at the Central Bank of Lesotho.”
“All private foreign currency deposits and accounts are held at commercial banks and never at the Central Bank of Lesotho. I have explained this to him several times, but he is unable to understand it.”

Dr Majoro says the government was never going to pay farmers owed by Maseru Dawning without assurances that it would be able to recoup its money from the company.
“The decision to pay farmers was also accompanied by several other decisions to protect the Government of Lesotho,” the minister said.
“Minister Phori and I directed our officials to prepare a cession document that would guarantee that taxpayers resources used to pay farmers are paid back to Government.”

He said what is important to the government is that farmers are paid.
“If Maseru Dawning now has funding to pay farmers, that is in order and that should have happened months ago,” he said.

Itumeleng Khoete

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