By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – To bridge the gap of inequality and foster inclusivity, the donor community has told the government to prioritize the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable people when mounting strategies and developmental plans.

These developments transpired at the ‘Aid Coordination Forum’ held between the government and the Development Partners last week in Maseru.

On behalf of the Development Partners, the United Nations (UN) Lesotho Resident Coordinator (RC) Amanda Khozi Mukwashi said it is critical that the resources they give to government are used for the purposes they are intended for.

Mukwashi said “Aid Coordination Forum is a necessary platform for the effective coordination of resources by all development partners to avoid duplication of efforts, if we are better coordinated in all our areas of work, it means the impact reaches further and wider”.

The RC said as the development partners, they align themselves with five principles underpinned by the Paris Declaration that “aid more effective” and those are: ownership, alignment, harmonization, management for results, and mutual accountability.

Ownership requires that the recipient countries take lead of their own development; alignment means that the donors should coordinate their aid with the recipient countries priorities and systems in place; harmonization, here the donors have to work jointly, managing for results calls for both donors and recipient countries to focus on achieving measurable results and lastly mutual accountability aspires for both parties to be accountable for effective use of aid with donors being transparent about their assistance and  recipients being held accountable for their polices as well as the results they achieved.

She said, “most importantly, we need to ensure that we find a way to have the voices of those most at risk and marginalized heard so that our strategies and plans are grounded in the reality of the people”.

Lesotho has received and continues to receive funding and technical assistance from the development partners in support of its development goals. Those include health, education, water and sanitation, food and agriculture, on issues of governance among others.

Her development partners include, the UN agencies, international organisations operating in the country, and the High Commissions and Embassies including the World Bank and the European Union (EU).

On behalf of the government, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane said 2020/21 and 2021/22 reports show that the Key Priority Area I (KPAI) of the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II, identifies the priority sectors as Agriculture, Manufacturing, Tourism and Technology and Innovation sectors “as the key engines of economic growth”, has received little development assistance from the donor community. 

She appealed to the Development Partners to “prioritize” these areas saying the move will ensure that the country achieves “inclusive and sustainable” economic growth and private sector-led job creation.

Dr Matlanyane intimated that she will be tabling the updated Lesotho Partnership Policy, 2013 before the Cabinet for approval. “In the coming weeks, I will be tabling the Updated Lesotho Partnership Policy before the Cabinet for approval.

“I, therefore, found it befitting to highlight you on the Policy so that we can have an informed policy dialogue and development cooperation that can effectively contribute towards national development,” she said.

She continued: “The need for our Development Partners’ support is more pronounced now than ever before as the country is grappling with deteriorating social and economic conditions. As I indicated in the 2023/24 Budget Speech, we have experienced economic contractions of about 1.7 percent on average between 2017/18 and 2021/22.  We have experienced higher inflation rates, a fragile fiscal situation as expenditure continues to outpace revenue and wider current account deficit. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the situation by subduing the global growth.

“In addition, our country remains vulnerable with low investment in key priority areas, low productive capacity, and high-income inequality. Poverty is eminent, unemployment is rife, our infrastructure is in a deteriorative state, our health and education sectors are in shambles, crime is rampant amongst our communities, and the list is endless. Over and above all these challenges, we are compelled to transform our economy. The impact of slow growth on our public finances and constrained resources is overwhelming. Therefore, this calls for our concerted efforts in developing initiatives that strive towards the envisaged positive impact on our economic growth.”

The former Governor of Central Bank, cum politician said to address the challenges facing the country, the government will extend the implementation of the NSDP II Strategic Framework, the exercise that is expected to be completed by December later this year.

She underscored that it is through the collective and continued efforts that the country’s developmental trajectory will be changed for the better.

Asking the development partners to come aboard, she said the government “cannot undertake this venture alone” in shaping the common destination for the “Lesotho we want”.

The Minister thanked the Development Partners for their “continued support in our course for development. Your contribution towards the achievement of the Key Priority Areas (KPAs), Strategic Objectives and Key Policy Interventions outlined in the NSDP is of critical value. Indeed, the country has not only benefitted in terms of financial inflows, but also from technical assistance, capacity building and innovation.”