THE government has set in motion preparations for the Job Summit to be held in October in a bid to tackle the high unemployment in the country.
Speaking at the launch ceremony on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, who will spearhead the process, said thematic working teams have been created based on identified key sources of growth and competitiveness factors.
Mr Metsing said the growth drivers identified are commercial agriculture and agribusiness; transforming the tourism industry; diversifying textile manufacturing; as well as economic activity building on technology and creative industries.
He said the thematic teams would identify interventions required to remove constraints to the development of various industries and identify investments for the public and private sector in order to develop value chains.
The deputy premier further stated that he began preparations for the Job Summit with a visit to the International Labour Organisation in 2012 immediately after the coalition government was inaugurated.
Mr Metsing said he would be leading the process as the chair of the cabinet committee for the Job Summit, adding that there is need to develop a concrete strategy for creating jobs.
As the chairperson of the cabinet committee on the Job Summit, Mr Metsing said he would focus on the critical issues that would enhance Lesotho’s economic competitiveness.
The deputy prime minister also said the country’s jobs strategy would inform investments and interventions that government would undertake to create a conducive environment for employment creation and growth.
Mr Metsing emphasised the need to have a healthy workforce for Lesotho to achieve its economic competitiveness and ensure productivity.
“Workers who are ill cannot function to their potential, as this leads to high absenteeism and poses significant costs to businesses thus investment in the provision of health services is critical,” said Mr Metsing.
“We need to reduce mortality, especially child and maternal mortality, not only for moral considerations but also to stem the depreciation of the current labour force and have well socialised future leaders and economic agents.”
The country’s financial systems, Mr Metsing added, need to evolve through the creation of appropriate financial products and institutions to improve access to capital.
He, however, stressed the need for the financial sector to be well regulated.
“The government has just adopted a financial sector strategy from which we will identify critical development areas to constitute our immediate reform agenda which I will also champion through the investment climate reform committee,” said Mr Metsing.
On technological advancements, Mr Metsing said productivity is influenced by the level of technology adopted, adding that leveraging information and communications technologies in daily activities and production processes as well as enabling innovation for competitiveness is essential for growth.
He also said investors expect government to remove excessive bureaucracy and red tape, burdensome taxes, overregulation, corruption, increased transparency and building effective and efficient institutions to provide appropriate services and highlighted the need to have an independent judiciary and rule of law for business to thrive in Lesotho.
Mr Metsing also said there is need to maintain labour stability and the enacting of labour laws that protect the rights of employees whilst maintaining competitiveness.
Speaking on behalf of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo said agriculture remains an important sector for increasing employment and rural incomes.
According Chief Molapo, Lesotho’s agricultural production has, however, dropped from contributing about 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in the past 30 years to the present eight percent.
“There are a number of industries that can provide employment for young people and women,” Chief Molapo said.
“Fruit and vegetables, high value field crops, poultry, piggery and rabbit production are important sources of income, especially for women and the youth.
“There is great room for expansion to meet domestic and international demands.”
Chief Molapo also said Lesotho produces the best trout for which the country must devise strategies to expand opportunities for communities in the fish’s vicinity.
Chief Molapo also emphasised the need to tap into opportunities to link tourism with agriculture, mining, manufacturing, retail services and other industries.