By: Mpho Shelile

To fuel economic growth and social development and to curb poverty the United States of America has given Lesotho a US$300 million health and horticulture compact grant, this was brought to light at the state house in Maseru on the 7th of November.

The donation is an integral part of the USA Assistance Strategy for Lesotho, which we hope will help improve the quality of life of the Basotho people. The operation will contribute to strengthening the business environment and promoting economic diversification leading to broad-based and employment-generating growth

Prime Minister Hon. Samuel Ntsokoane Matekane indicated he knows that MCC scorecards are a key component in its competitive selection process that highlights the achievements and milestones of government during the year and determines the country’s eligibility regarding MCC compact funding. “According to these gains, we stand here today humbled by the modest progress we have made together thus far and we hope to build on that momentum to do even better in the coming year,” said Hon. Matekane

However, he urged all the government officials to not rest on their achievements! Stressing that there is still much work to be done especially in the four areas of Fiscal policy, Trade policy, Land rights and access, and natural resource protection, where they did not pass the scorecard. “I am committed to ensuring that Lesotho submits data to support the assessment of Girls’ Primary Education Completion Rate, which I know we are performing well as a country. In the coming year, my government will focus on the area of policies to address deficiencies in Fiscal policy, Trade policy, Land rights, and access. We have already identified some of the reasons why we are not doing well in these indicators”

He further indicated that the government is committed to promoting gender equality by providing women and men with the same access to legal and public institutions and to participate in economic opportunities. Additionally, they have embraced technology and innovation, recognizing their transformative power. That is why they have launched SEBABATSO, which will focus on fostering youth innovation ideas and businesses. An important platform that is dedicated to displaying youth ideas and businesses and they are proud to have become a government that fosters youth entrepreneurship development, which is driving growth and creating new avenues for progress.

“Our commitment to control and eliminate corruption remains steadfast. We are working tirelessly to expose corrupt activities, keep the public sector honest and accountable, and ensure public servants work in the best interest of Basotho. Our efforts to reduce and control corruption have strengthened the quality of our service to the Basotho nation. The commitment we have made to investing in people has never wavered over the years. It gives us great pride to be able to ensure that all Basotho people have access to quality health services through the comprehensive strengthening of our health systems. Our initiatives in health services have focused on providing equal opportunities for every Mosotho, regardless of their background and location.”

He then showed appreciation to the United States Government for the investments they have received under Compact 1 in the health sector and the additional support they are getting under the second compact. “Once again, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the American Government and its people for their unwavering support of Lesotho and Basotho.  The US$300 million Health and Horticulture Compact grant will undoubtedly propel our economic vision and help fight unemployment and poverty. This grant is a testament to the long diplomatic friendship enjoyed by the two nations. “

In conclusion, he addressed the Hon. Minister of Finance and Development Planning and her staff at MCA Lesotho who are entrusted with the grant received to make sure every cent is used for the good of Basotho. “I will ensure that every American dollar invested in this compact is used efficiently to maximize the impact of this compact in the country. Together, let us continue to build a brighter future for our beautiful Basotho Nation. We commit to work hard to make this a success for the benefit of Basotho”, he said.

The US Ambassador Mrs. Maria Brewer expressed how pleased she was to announce the results of the fiscal year 2024 MCC scorecard for Lesotho, “I want to take this moment to express my sincere gratitude to the Honorable Prime Minister for his presence here today and for his unwavering support. The attendance of the Prime Minister and numerous members of his cabinet is a clear demonstration of the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho’s commitment to the success of the Compact. It is wonderful to witness Lesotho once again passing the scorecard.”  

She further stated that Lesotho’s improvement, from passing 14 out of 20 indicators in fiscal year 2023 to 15 out of 20 in fiscal year 2024, is truly commendable, stating that these improvements signify Lesotho’s commitment to strengthening democratic governance and economic freedom. “I also want to commend the Government on enacting three laws in December 2022 that are conditioned to the start of the compact. The Counter Domestic Violence Act and the Harmonization Act strengthened protection and the legal status of women. The third law, the Act establishing Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho, led to the recent establishment of the MCA Board and the appointment of the MCA-Lesotho II CEO, Mme ‘Mannana Phalatse”, she said.

However, she pointed out that as we commend these accomplishments, it is vital to note that the success of the Health and Horticulture Compact hinges on the Government’s continuous commitment and actions. To achieve entry into force of the compact by March 30, 2024, Lesotho must urgently accelerate the enactment of the Labor Bill of 2022, occupational health and safety regulations, and additional inheritance reforms. Prioritizing the enactment of these laws will strengthen Lesotho’s legal framework and is vital, as the Compact cannot enter into force until they are enacted.

 She concluded by stating that she has confidence in the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho’s ability to meet the conditions precedent to ensure the timely entry into force of the $300 million Compact, which will ensure greater access to quality healthcare, create equitable business development opportunities, invest in high-value crop production, and boost profits and formal employment for women- and youth-owned enterprises. “I extend my appreciation once more to the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho for their dedication to ensuring the success of the Health and Horticulture Compact. The United States stands as your trusted partner in upholding the principles that underpin MCC’s eligibility criteria, such as political rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law. With great hope, respect, and sincerity, I wish you every success in the implementation of the Compact, leading us toward a brighter and more prosperous future for all.”