- In forging new development strategies, in alignment with its vision and goals, government of Lesotho is challenging its development partners to be bold and emphatic in order for the country to achieve desirable results.
"Let us not hesitate to ask hard and uncomfortable questions if we want delivery," pointed out Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Timothy Thahane, today at opening of a two day session with World Bank and other development partners, whose main objective is to determine strategic vision and identify key areas for support in government's poverty reduction strategy.
Dr Thahane hoped that review would allow all players to think afresh and come out with best strategies to make Lesotho a viable state.
In challenging some of old practices by development partners, he said it was time to do away with tendencies of continuation of programmes without pause. "Do we fight poverty by reallocating what we already have? What happens next and how are we going to sustain it?" he asked, adding that aggressive planning and strategising needed to be put in place.
Outlining Lesotho's needs and priorities, Dr Thahane mentioned four main areas which he said needed to be focused on, which are growing economy, expanding revenues, creating jobs and scaling up fight against HIV and AIDS.
He mentioned for instance that with Lesotho's taxable capacity limitations, there was need to replace sure to decline revenues from Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which contributes to about 60 per cent of Lesotho's annual budget.
With regional integration and expansion of customs union borders, smaller economies, such as Lesotho, already face a huge risk of revenue declines. The country has seen further declines in remmitances from migrant labour, with once strong workeforce of over 100,000 Basotho miners having decreased by over 50 per cent.
Explaining possible exits to emerging depressions, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, Principal Secretary Finance and Development Planning, said in past two years, government has been working on strategies to growing economy, saying first publication of national plan will be out by April 2010.
He said with increasing vulnerability to Lesotho's economy as well as pressuring effectcs of HIV and AIDS, there was need to scale up and improve social protection programmes while at same time 'accelerating job creation and shared economic growth'.
Amongst areas he mentioned as needing focus for investment, he said Lesotho had vast opportunities in untapped tourism industry, but warned that it should be investments that involve communities and seek to empower and create wealth for those communities.
Dr Majoro further said there were a number of other projects that could help grow country's economy, such as property development, stepping up agricultural production for export markets and vast mining resources, in sand stone and others.
Though he said Lesotho was fast making headlines as a quality diamond producer, he warned that such economic activities should not be exciting enough without engagement of local people as beneficiaries. "We need to avoid jobless growth and strengthen institutions by way of linking financial resources to set priorities," he added.
Dr Majoro concluded by saying that Lesotho would also need to protect already created jobs, especially in textile and garment manufacturing, saying apart from offshore markets, there was no reason why country could not take advantage of near markets with more immediate benefits, such as in Lesotho's only neighbour, South Africa.
World Bank's country director for Lesotho, Ms Ruth Kagia, also believes that there are investment opportunities out there for Lesotho to seize, saying review meeting was one huge chance to look on past partnerships and improve on lessons learnt.
She further said while government was to present new options for development partnerships, question should also be asked as to what such partnerships had done, if Lesotho was still on same spot ten years later.
The session which has brought together government, World Bank and other development partners sharing views in building new strategies for development, will also recognise voices from civil society and other non-economic players who will also inform planned processess to a new strategy.
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