TWO weeks ago Finance Minister Timothy Thahane spoke in the National Assembly on the current global financial and economic crisis and its impact on Lesotho’s fragile economy.
Thahane’s frank speech laid out the cards on the table regarding the immense challenges facing our country.
I wish to express my gratitude to the minister for taking the time to brief parliament on the current economic crisis.
Briefing parliament regularly on issues of importance is really necessary if our leaders are to continue being accountable to the electorate.
Thahane said the economic crisis had been transmitted to Lesotho through employee lay-offs in South African mines, collapsing diamond prices and the decline in Sacu revenues.
From these three channels it is clear that we need clear strategies and mechanisms to counter the current economic crisis.
We can either adapt to the crisis and live side by side with it or sink into complete oblivion.
I believe we can with commitment and determination fight our way out of the crisis.
As Basotho we should embrace and come together to fight the crisis.
We need to pull together the different ideas we might have on how to tame this economic monster.
It certainly does not matter whether one is a supporter of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy, the National Independence Party, the All Basotho Convention or the Basotho National Party.
What matters is what brings us together during these trying times.
It is important that we develop a spirit of comradeship, statesmanship and patriotism.
I have observed that in the past four fiscal years, recurrent expenditure has been given more consideration than capital expenditure.
We need to change this approach or we face the music.
The government needs to drastically cut expenditure on non-essentials such as paying for government officials’ transport and housing costs as well as travelling per diems.
Salaries for ministers and parliamentarians are too high and must be cut.
Lesotho needs to cut expenditure on projects that bring little in return.
We need to invest in capital projects that promise us some returns.
We also need to do away with the idea of bailing out troubled local companies.
Most of the problems experienced by these firms are self-inflicted.
I find it quite odd that the government, through the Lesotho National Development Corporation, is so quick to bail out local companies.
Saving jobs should not be at the expense of creating more jobs for the thousands of unemployed Basotho wallowing in poverty in rural areas.
Food parcels are not the solution for the unemployed.
The idea of handing out food parcels is not sustainable.
In fact, such a programme only increases recurrent expenditure.
We need programmes that boost our anaemic agricultural sector.
We need to invest in cash crops that are drought-resistant.
This will certainly solve the perennial food shortages that continue to dog the country.
The government should push for policies that encourage people to halt spending but increase their investments.
It might appear simple but the truth of the matter is that people need to save for the rainy day.
The government should develop new strategies to boost the agriculture and tourism sectors.
We should not just depend on textiles and diamonds.
We should diversify in preparation for the rainy day.
It is unfortunate that academics and technocrats failed to see and warn us of the impending danger.
The crisis has hit us under their watch.
I suggest that the government tries to engage ordinary Basotho on how to solve the current situation.
Our central bank should also try to reshape the macroeconomic policy to be flexible to the ever-changing demands.
We need constant briefings by the government on the state of the economy and where we are headed as a country.
God bless Lesotho.