MASERU — The Ministry of Finance is expected to table an all-inclusive national budget for the 2014-2015 financial period after engaging the public’s views on national budget priorities.
The ministry’s director planning, Habofanoe Makopela, said the resolution to incorporate other stakeholders in the formulation of the national budget was born out of discontent from the general public about government’s ignorance regarding “the public’s inclusion in the initial stages of budget preparations”.
“This came after the last two years whereby the community showed discontent about not being included in initial stages of budget preparations,” Makopela said.
According to Makopela, the Budget Framework Paper (BFP) intends to facilitate job creation, inclusive growth and economic diversification, reducing social and economic vulnerability and “improving public sector efficiency and effectiveness”.
Achieving sustainable and inclusive growth has been a challenge in recent years owing to the lingering adverse impact of the global economic downturn on the Lesotho economy, said Makopela.
Makopela said the BFP is meant to highlight recent economic performance and also “provide an updated medium-term economic outlook”.
“The BFP contains the initial framework for 2014/15-2016/17 and the fiscal strategy from which ministerial budgets will be developed,” Makopela said.
The finance ministry’s chief economist also emphasised that it is in this light that the ministry engaged the community to “set out key requirements” to be observed by ministries in the preparation of upcoming budgets.
“The public’s views were collected to incorporate those that conform to government’s poverty reduction strategy, Vision 2020 and also the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the next coming budget to be inclusive,” said Makopela.
The BFP proposes conformity to a new Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for the Kingdom of Lesotho for the period 2013-2017, Makopela said.
Makopela further said that reaching out to communities countrywide would enable the government to “consolidate an inclusive budget” since there will be no information asymmetry between the community and the government “in terms of priorities in the national budget”.
“This will help see whether societal views align with the new (CSP) and such ideas would be incorporated in the budget,” Makopela said.
The new CSP is aligned with the Government’s development agenda and the African Development Bank’s new Long Term Strategy (LTS) 2013-2022.
He said following extensive consultations with government and various stakeholders, the CSP will guide the Bank’s support in the implementation of priorities articulated in the government’s National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2012/13-2016/17.
“The CSP focuses on the catalytic role the Bank can play to support the country in realizing its development goals,” Makopela said.
The NSDP emphasizes the promotion of sustainable and inclusive growth to reduce poverty and inequality and achieve the MDGs.
Makopela insisted that together, elements of the NSDP and other strategies call government and the community’s continued support of Lesotho’s development objectives to “enable the country achieve high, inclusive and sustainable growth”.
When contacted for comment on Tuesday, Sekonyela Mapetja of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) said it had been their plea over several years “to be engaged in budget cycles preparations”.
“We are happy that in the next economic year, we would be having a participatory budget, that emanates from the people as it has being our long time plea,” Mapetja said.
Mapetja added: “We met with the Finance Minister and our parliamentary committee and explored prospects of achieving high, sustainable and inclusive growth.
“We believe that sustaining such debate on budget preparations would be a bulwark for ameliorating fiscal year shocks and imbalances.”
Mapetja said the initiative is the first and overarching objective aimed at achieving growth that is more inclusive, leading not just to equality of treatment and opportunity but also to “deep reductions in poverty and correspondingly large increase in jobs”.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times also on Tuesday, Havard School graduate and renowned local economist Majakathata Mokoena, who represented Lesotho Chamber of Commerce in one of the meetings with the Ministry of Finance to engage public involvement in budget preparations, said their meeting was “a really comprehensive one”.
“The ministry involved the NGOs to make inputs in the upcoming budget. It was a rather wide spectrum of attendants,” Mokoena said.
“That could help government achieve some progress in terms of making consolidated efforts in next year’s estimates of tax revenue and expenditure.”
“However, there are still some drawbacks as the time for outreaching was not long enough,” Mokoena said.