THE Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) is set to hold a business forum and trade exhibition on 19 November 2015 to gather information for the formulation of the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
According to PSFL Chief Executive Officer Thabo Qhesi the forum, which would be held at Blue Mountain Inn in Teyateyaneng, is meant to find ways to improve the operating environment for local businesses.
Mr Qhesi, who was addressing journalists in Maseru on Monday, said the forum would be held under the theme “Exploring interventions which can assist the private sector in achieving SDGs and NSDP targets”.
“We intend to hold discussions on how we can achieve Sustainable Development Goals and consolidate initiatives outlined in the National Development Strategic Plan,” he said.
“For instance, we want to explore how the Public Procurement Policy could be used as a tool to empower local businesses. The current policy does not have provisions that compel foreign investors to ensure local companies have a stake in their businesses.
“We also want to look into the best practices in improving the linkages between large and small and medium-sized businesses. We would want a situation where large businesses assist local suppliers to meet operational standards to enable them to outsource services locally.”
Mr Qhesi said the forum would also brainstorm on the establishment of economic development zones at district levels.
“We are currently beset with the challenge of communities building homes on fertile land which could otherwise be used for the benefit of the country’s agricultural sector,” he said.
Mr Qhesi said the PSDP could be used as a monitoring mechanism of the progress government institutions and its agencies were making within a specified period.
“For instance, there is need to harmonise the tax regime to curb corruption. Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) personnel do not man all the country’s borders and there are traders who use borders without the tax authority to evade paying tax,” he said.
“Besides Maseru, LRA only has offices in Leribe and Mohale’s Hoek to cater for traders in the districts. It is a challenge for traders in districts such as Mokhotlong to travel long distances to the nearest LRA office in Leribe to obtain a tax clearance form which is usually not availed to them on the same day.
“Most of the time they have to travel back to Mokhotlong and come back to the office another day. It is a huge inconvenience for businesses.”
He said the forum would also assess the status of internet service provision in Lesotho.
“The Lesotho Communication Authority which is mandated with regulating the communications sector still lacks strategies to ensure the provision of high speed internet. As a result, many businesses are handicapped by an inefficient internet service,” noted Mr Qhesi.
“Furthermore, the process of promoting science and technology as well as innovations has remained stagnant. We are not advancing at all in that regard and at the moment we can only speculate on whether there is an innovation fund set aside to improve the sector.”
He said the business forum would precede the launch the Pride of Lesotho campaign which is meant to promote local products and help create jobs.
According to Mr Qhesi, only products compliant with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) requirements and recognised under the United Nations Global Compact would qualify to bear the Pride of Lesotho logo.
“It has come to our realisation that most Lesotho-made products are unable to access global markets due to the absence of a bureau of standards.
“However, the government of Lesotho is making strides in putting in place the necessary facilities to certify products made in Lesotho,” he added.