By Thandiwe Kubere
The ministry of finance and development planning in collaboration with experts from different sectors, held a meeting to device possible strategies of improving the country’s current economic state, as well as to evaluate how far different sectors have come in consideration with the previous plans and give a report of what has been achieved to this point.
According to the development planning acting principal secretary, ‘Malisebo ‘Mokela, the ministry embarked on a journey of setting the direction for building the national development plan. The implementation period of the second generation of the strategic national development plan to improve the economy of the country ended in March this year. Even so, the government decided to extend that period by another five years, leading to 2027/28. “It is our job therefore, to ensure that when this period ends, we have something to show for it. The government of Lesotho has had quite an eventful quest and we can all attest to that. It is therefore important to gather all our strength to steer this country in the right direction for its benefit”, said ‘Mokela. She declared that this can be achieved by making sound plans and ensuring their full implementation.
Like every other country, Lesotho was hit hard by the covid 19 pandemic, therefore putting the country’s economic growth at stake. ‘Mokela said Lesotho is faced with a number of pressing challenges which lay bare the country’s deficiencies- poverty is eminent, unemployment is rife, the infrastructure is in a deteriorative state and the list goes on. “It is only through our continual efforts, dedication, patriotism and hard work that we may change the tragedy of this country to its betterment”, she said. Therefore the meeting was set to be a reflection of what has been happening on the ground.
The Director of department of policy and strategic planning, Mohlape Ramoseme said in 2017, a plan was designed with the government. The primary purpose was to create employment due to the realizing that the rate of unemployment is exceedingly high especially within the youth. It was therefore decided that the implementation would take five more years in order to develop a sustainable and inclusive economy which is private sector led. This is because over the years, the government has been expected to be employment creators whereas in actual reality the public sector offers more employment. Due to that reason, it became necessary to include business owners and entrepreneurs in the mission to sustain and improve the economy of the country.
Through proper evaluation, it has been discovered that the sectors with great potential of creating employment and growing the economy are; agriculture and food security, manufacturing, tourism, information technology and infrastructure. “Work was conducted within the years and we also realized that it is wise to not make the sectors stand on their own. We had to make sure we have a healthy society, we then included health education, migration, nutrition and social protection. We also saw the need for improved infrastructure including roads, water, technology and electricity in order to meet business owners half way”, said Ramoseme. She added that during their four years of work and efforts to implement plans, unexpected challenges were met which included the lack of enough funds. This is because a number of plans were made without considering the available funds, which meant they had to go back and prioritize.
However, while still in the process, COVID 19 hit, movement was prohibited and businesses downscaled- others suffered while others had to close down. This meant since there was no money coming in the country, the economy of the country dropped. The intention of coming up with a different perspective and new strategies is to make plans aligned with the available resources so that implementation is not as challenging. Another objective is to introspect on what exactly goes wrong because plans are made but do not really get carried out.
A review was conducted and the ministry was aware that many plans are made within a short period of time, especially those beyond capacity hence the struggle to achieve them. There is also no data kept on the progress that has been made so far and a baseline to show how things were since 2017. It has also been identified that there are no regular reports or evaluation of plans from sectors. Ramoseme said this is because there are no tools to utilize and monitoring is not done efficiently.
Seeing that the previous plans were good even though carrying them out was a struggle, the sectors have decided to keep them that way but engage new strategies. The key priorities are to enhance a sustainable and inclusive economy, improving and increasing productivity, enabling construction as well as strengthening good government and responsibility system. The changes that have been made are that mining is moving to the productive sector. Information communication technology has also been realized to be beneficial in every sector, especially that of infrastructure. The sectors are also to be mainstreamed/merged with others to work together.
Agriculture and food security sector representative, Nthonyana Bokako alluded that more than 70% of Basotho work with agriculture. She showed that with the new strategies at hand, the sector has moved from eight objectives to two. They included improving the functioning of land markets. The ministry has begun the process of establishing the regulations of the application of agricultural land. The second intervention was to conduct the land capability assessment and trade online. “In this intervention we have the soil nutrients maps and soil project initiatives which have been completed under phase-l”, she said.
The achievements from the previous interventions included finding a suitable area for production and formal irrigation in the ten districts and it is already ongoing. The total area covered is 3393.8 hectors and the arable land is about 583 145 hectors- about 90% of the land, this is from the land cover statistics 2023. The ministry has also provided access to laboratories for research and provide food analysis and a soil laboratory which allows soil testing and analysis. “Under this initiative we have Leribe- Tsikoane market center which was launched in 2022 and more”, said Bokako. The ongoing process of the ministry include initiating block farming, increase production, change nutrition stages, and working towards increasing the employment rate. The ministry is also going through the final negotiations with Lesotho Post bank to make things easier for farmers who want to sell.
Chief economic planner of Ministry of trade industry business development and tourism, Phera Lepati said the ministry has been working towards developing infrastructure. The construction of 16 factories in Butha Buthe has been completed but the funds were not enough for water and electricity. 17 factories are also under construction in Ha Tikoe.
‘Mokela in conclusion encouraged increased production for prosperity as well as to export for other countries to attain economic growth. She said with a creative and innovative mindset, the country has potential to reach its economic dream and have peace because peace will not come without prosperity.