SENATORS have urged politicians to stop unnecessary fighting and ensure a conducive environment for investment.
The Senators are also worried about corruption and red-tape in government, which they say are discouraging investment.
These concerns came out in Senate on Tuesday as the Senators debated the country’s economy and prevailing instability. The insecurity is now being addressed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which the Senators said was not good for development.
Thaba-Bosiu Principal Chief Khoabane Theko told his fellow senators that Lesotho was now always on the SADC agenda “for the wrong reasons”, and urged political leaders to end their bickering for the sake of economic growth.
Senator Theko further said government should simplify processes leading to the creation of employment, adding excessive regulation only chased away potential investors.
“Some of the red-tape is in the issuing of mining licences, an unfavourable tax regime, and slow processing of payments to businesses which provide government with goods and services,” Senator Theko said.
The outspoken chief further said constant fighting by politicians compounded an already difficult investment environment.
“Our politicians are only focused on their never-ending power-struggles. We are always on the SADC agenda for the wrong reasons. Lesotho has become SADC’s problem child. Is it because we can’t rule and all we want is self-enrichment at the expense of taxpayers?” asked Senator Theko.
“The government should facilitate peace in this country because stability is very essential for the country’s development. But with the current political and security instability, it has become hard to attract foreign investors who now fear their businesses would be affected should there be violence.
“Politicians should assist us towards building peace in this divided nation.
“In 1995, King Moshoeshoe II held a national dialogue on peace and development. We need such forums so we can work our way out of this political instability.
“We should find out what is causing this hatred and divisions within our society. We need to find common ground. Even though we are not politicians but chiefs, we have a role to play and guide our nation to development.”
On mining licences, Chief Theko said “bureaucratic red-tape” should be brought to an end as a matter of urgency if this sector is to realise its full potential and benefit Basotho.
“Laws regulating the mining industry are rigid even to this day. We need to learn from our neighbours in Swaziland, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia how they are regulating their mining industries to ease doing business in these sectors”.
Leribe Principal Chief Joel Motšoene echoed similar sentiments and noted Lesotho could have achieved “a lot” if the country was stable. Senator Motšoene also condemned the victimisation of potential investors due to their political affiliation.
“There are people who are being denied mining licences due to their parents’ political affiliation. We have to bring such things to an end and also think of introducing mining registration processes similar to the Ministry of Trade’s One-Stop-Shop facility, which are simpler and investor-friendly,” said Chief Motšoene.
The senator also emphasised the need for Basotho to be given first priority when applying for mining licences.
Senate President Seeiso Bereng Seeiso also weighed-in on the importance of peace and stability in economic growth.
Prince Seeiso, who is also the Principal Chief of Matsieng, further condemned corruption which he said had become a “cancer” in Lesotho.
“Peace and stability are important for economic growth. As for corruption, it’s a cancer in the body polity of our country and leads to lack of development. When corruption is so endemic in our system, we fail to grow. We should have graduated from this least-developed country status we are in, a long time ago if it was not for corruption,” Chief Seeiso said.
Chief tears into govt over spending
Thaba-Bosiu Principal Chief Khoabane Theko on Tuesday criticised government’s decision to clear Members of Parliament (MPs)’s First National Bank loans.
The Ministry of Finance paid a staggering M32 million early this year to clear the funds obtained interest-free by MPs who were part of the short-lived Eighth Parliament.
However, news of the bailout only became public early this month, sparking outrage across the political divide.
The legislators are each entitled to M500 000 bank loans which they repay over the five years they are in office.
But after their tenure ended midterm due to the collapse of the three-party government led by Thomas Thabane, the MPs argued they could not service the debt anymore because they no longer had an income, hence the incoming administration’s decision to pay FNB.
The government has however, not said whether the MPs are still going to pay back the money. But according to Chief Theko, the bailout was reckless and an abuse of public funds.
“It was shocking to learn about government’s decision to pay for the MPs’ loans. How do we afford to do such a ridiculous thing in a country so hard hit by poverty? How do we continue with such a scheme when we are a least-developed country whose national budget is financed by donor aid? Government should recover the money, because it belongs to the people; to taxpayers,” said Chief Theko.
“Are we honestly contributing towards the country’s development and making sure the people get out of extreme poverty? We are now under a government with a prime minister who also buys out principal secretaries’ contracts as though the millions being spent are nothing. The prime minister is doing this without any fear of what the public will say; in fact, he is doing this with pride.
“We are shocked by this reckless spending. It’s just rhetoric by government officials when they say they care for the people.”