By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane has come out guns blazing proposing stringent checks and balances as a means to enhance accountability and productivity.

This transpired on Monday this week at the unveiling of the Country Partnership Framework (CPF) 2024-28.

Speaking at a not business as usual tone, the Minister lamented what lack of accountability and poor delivery by the government. 

She said if a person does not have the capacity to deliver on the work entrusted on them, they should step aside, adding that it is the “honourable thing to do”.

Going forward, Dr Matlanyane said she will not sign projects that do not have performance contracts. She also enlisted the involvement of the development partners in vetting processes of those who will lead and work on such projects. 

“I feel I have come to an end of line,” she fumed.

As Basotho, she said “we are a disgrace”. She said “we will stay like this poor, even our kids and parents and future generations “.

The CPF is a strategic document that contains the development projects that the World Bank will undertake in the period of 5 years. The previous CPF, ended on June 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The World Bank is one of our largest multilateral partners with 11 active projects with a total commitment valued at US$425 million [M7.9 billion]. As the Government, we are cognizant that these projects continue to register slow implementation and we are already working jointly with the World Bank National office to address the issues that hamper the due implementation of these projects.

“In our recent Implementation Support Meetings with the Bank, we noted that we need to strengthen the projects monitoring and evaluation system to reform the structure of the Project Implementation Units as well as to standardize their activities for improved reporting and accountability. Furthermore, in the coming week, we will have a two-day World Bank’s Portfolio Disbursement Workshop as one of the measures taken to improve the portfolio performance. We commit to jointly address implementation challenges to ensure speedy utilization and absorption of resources to derive measurable outcomes,” she said.

Lesotho, like other economies in the region, she said it is experiencing “a constellation of shocks” and these include increased inflationary pressures, geo-political conflicts, lingering spillover effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change impact.

Dr Matlanyane added: “All these downside risks negatively impact on the economy and exacerbate the already plummeted macroeconomic conditions. The high rate of unemployment especially among the youth is quite exigent. The opportunities availed through avenues such as Country Partnership Frameworks, therefore come at an opportune time and must be embraced with the earnest and with a sense of appreciation that they deserve.  We cannot afford to miss the privilege to stir the engines of our economy into the desired harbor of inclusive and sustainable growth.”    

The Minister highlighted that the new CPF is fully aligned with government priorities as articulated in its three High-Level Outcomes (HLOs), and Seven CPF Objectives.

She said Under High Level Outcome One (HLO-1), which focuses on increased employment in the private sector, the World Bank will support key reforms for a conducive business environment for private sector development. She further said it will support establishment of a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem and expand opportunities for firms particularly for MSMEs, youth and women.

Under High Level Outcome Two (HLO-2), which is expected to contribute towards  the improved human capital outcomes, the World Bank will prioritize its support to improve the quality of Early Childhood Care, Development and Education (ECCDE) and junior secondary education including retention to strengthen the foundation for future learning and skill acquisition.

The HLO-2 will further address supply side constraints in order to improve health outcomes for a productive workforce.

Under High Level Outcome Three (HLO-3), which will contribute towards the Improved Climate Resilience, here the Bank will contribute to the reforms on agricultural, water and landscape management.

It it further envisaged to provide a comprehensive approach for vulnerable households to manage and prepare for climate-related shocks through investments in physical and energy infrastructure.

Dr Matlanyane said “through the CPF, Lesotho is expected to benefit not only from its National Allocation, but also from other windows that provide finance for specific goals. We also note that new windows have been introduced and we shall engage further with the World Bank Country Office to determine the best options under these windows, for the financing of our pipeline and future projects while considering efficiency, risk and costs”.

These resources, she said will be beneficial in reducing the fiscal pressures by making public spending “more efficient and transparent, while reducing the fiscal costs and risks”.

She stated that formulation of this CPF was a result of the consultative and engaging process between the World Bank Group, the Government of Lesotho, the private sector, the diplomatic community and development partners, the youth, and marginalized groups.

“The Ball is now in our court to make efficient use of these resources. It is only through our joint continual efforts, dedication, and hard work that we may change the trajectory of this country to the better. Let us join hands together to map a way forward in achieving economic recovery that will get our economy into a resilient path,” she said.

For her part, the World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly said CPF covers key sectors including the private sector, health, education, social protection,  water and energy.

For success of this programme, she said it will build on the successes of its predecessor.

Marie-Nelly further said the CPF will further strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders; improve governance and capacity building of the public sector and integrate digital technology and gender in projects.

To address risks associated with implementing this programme, the World Bank’s Country Director said they will explore different avenues including the usage of government facilities to reduce risks, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Bank’s financed projects, focus on debt transparency and sustainability and also enhance the capacity development by providing support for the procurement and monitoring and evaluation exercises.

“Lesotho is fortunate to have several strengths and opportunities on which to build a much brighter growth and development future. Abundant natural resources such as water, could support economic growth, livelihoods and development of renewable energy.  Demographic trends are favorable with an increase in life expectancy and supply of [the] working age population.

“Also, Lesotho enjoys significant financial and technical support from the development partner community, ” writes the Country Director.