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Coalition must do more for the poor

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PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane on Thursday waxed lyrical as he outlined what he felt were his coalition government’s achievements over the past five months. The fact that the coalition government has survived this far, with very little public disagreement, must be seen as one of the government’s biggest achievements, in our view. The premier highlighted 14 areas in which he claimed his government excelled.

Among these was the recruitment and deployment of more nurses to improve health delivery services across the country and the funding of care facilities for the elderly, orphans and vulnerable children.
He said his government had stepped up the fight against crime and corruption by conducting several successful raids in search of illegal weapons, stolen stock and stolen motor vehicles. The premier also revealed that his government had developed an “Assets and Interest Declaration Form” for all civil servants and government ministers to fill as his government steps up the fight against corruption.
He said M17 million had been allocated to provide agricultural subsidies to buy seeds and fertilisers and for mechanical operations this agricultural season.

While these and many other achievements are commendable, we wish to sound a word of warning: a lot still needs to be done to empower and improve people’s lives. This is no time for government ministers to beat their chests. In fact, government ministers and senior civil servants must put their nose on the plough, metaphorically speaking, and get on with the job of fighting poverty. Unless the government does so it risks squandering the goodwill it is enjoying after ending former premier Pakalitha Mosisili’s 14-year rule. We however believe the government should not have put itself under unnecessary pressure by promising to effect dramatic changes within the first 100 days in the first place. It really didn’t need to.

By setting itself almost an impossible target, the coalition government risked incensing and alienating its support base. One hundred days is too short a period to have done real significant changes that affect the people’s lives. At the same time we believe six months is too little a time for us to be able to pass a reasonable judgment on the government’s performance. For us at the Sunday Express, our verdict is that very little has changed regarding the plight of the ordinary Mosotho. The majority of Basotho are still grappling to put three square meals on the table.

Urban poverty seems to have worsened. Textile workers are in a belligerent mood, demanding huge salary increases that if awarded could sink our key textile sector. Unpleasant though it might seem, this is the reality that we see in the villages today. We believe there is still a lot that the coalition government needs to do to improve the lives of ordinary Basotho. Chief among these will the government’s response to the impending food shortages. We are happy that the premier has been leading from the front in mobilising support from our friends in the international community. He was also quick to declare a state of national food emergency.

With the M117 million agricultural subsidy in place the challenge now is to ensure that farmers put it to good use and not squander the funds and inputs on non-agricultural projects. We must grow our own food and stop this over-reliance on friends and international food relief agencies.

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