I believe your ministry is tasked with the most important aspect in the lives of Basotho; that of developing ways in which we can have a better life for all.
This could be achieved through the eradication of poverty and lowering the soaring levels of unemployment. Poverty and unemployment are the severe twin devils that are preventing our country to score high on the Human Development Index of the UNDP.
Minister, I believe the government has not exhausted all measures of getting rid of these challenges. I still think there’s still more to be done.
Let’s be honest Minister, the government of Lesotho has produced the best development policies ever. Look at the Lesotho Vision 2020, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and lately, the National Strategic Development Plan.
These contain some brilliant ideas on how to tackle the challenges that hamper this country’s development. The problem with all of them is that they are full of “more talk talk and less do do”.
Minister, it is time to implement these brilliant plans. As long as the government produces these documents and they gather dust in the shiny shelves, our nation will continue to be poorer.
I have a solution for you Minister, the one like corporate social responsibility which is already being done by most companies in Lesotho. The government should legislate the compulsory contribution by every working citizen of this country.
If the companies are obliged to do corporate social responsibility, then the people should be obliged to carry-out “individual social responsibility”.
A fund to be called the Special Poverty Relief Fund parallel to the Consolidated Fund should be established.
The poverty fund should hold the monies contributed compulsorily from all government employees from grade F upwards and their cohorts in the private sector.
This would help to make the fight against poverty and unemployment everybody’s business, from the government to the citizens.
The fund would then be used to run community public works projects in every village of Lesotho.
The works should include building of roads and foot bridges and taking part in land rehabilitation projects.
Community members should be encouraged to work on these small scale development projects through living wages from this fund.
It would go an extra mile in helping us to be self-reliant and less dependent on foreign aid for our development.
The management of the fund should be highly centralised to curb the misuse of funds and corruption.
It should be located in the Office of the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister with only two senior officials; the administrator and his/her secretary who should both be highly competent.
The administrator should be a chartered accountant who possesses an MBA degree (public admin). He/she would be the Fund’s accountant and administrator at the same time.
The secretary should hold an LLB to act both as the secretary and a legal advisor who could have audience in court.
The monies from the Fund should be subjected to all financial accountability laws of the land and be audited by the Auditor General.
There should then be junior staff in the district councils across the country.
Honourable Minister, there are already critics of this model.
They claim that they already pay exorbitant PAYE taxes. I usually tell them that they are no exception. The companies also pay corporate taxes. The poor unemployed citizens pay VAT too with the little they have every time.
Even the companies which are so tax-compliant still perform corporate social responsibilities. Why shouldn’t they just contribute, say three percent of their net salaries to the poverty relief fund for the development of their country?
I must admit Minister that this is both controversial and unpopular. It is not even politically prudent.
But what other options does the government have? Basotho need poverty to be eradicated, unemployment to be gotten rid of and development improved; whether through popular or unpopular decisions.
Time has passed with so much talking and talking. Now is implementation time Minister. God bless Lesotho and Basotho.
- Kelebone Lekunya is a town and regional planning student