Poverty reduction: where’s the proof?

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On February 12, 2010, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Honourable Timothy Thahane delivered his annual National Budget to Parliament.
One of the most contentious issues to have emerged from that moribund speech is the posit uttered by Honourable Thahane that the government’s poverty reduction strategy had achieved most of its objectives.
If my memory serves me well, the poverty reduction strategy is or was a three-year medium term development framework (2004/05-2006/07) for Lesotho, implemented in 2004.
It outlined national priorities and strategies for promoting economic growth and reducing poverty.
The poverty reduction strategy provides, or should have provided an overview of how the government of Lesotho will focus its efforts on fighting poverty in the coming years.
In its proposed strategies to alleviate poverty against the backdrop of employment creation and income generation, the poverty reduction strategy outlined, inter alia, the contribution of small, medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), the development of agri-business and development of mining industry.
It even connoted that the country exploits reserves of dolerite and clay.
Over the next three years, production will be upped by the private sector in areas like Ha Teko, Ha Motleheloa (clay), Kolo, Lets’eng and Kao (diamonds).
It is 2010 and almost six years since the inception of the poverty reduction strategy.
While not undermining the ruling regime’s endeavours in spearheading its poverty reduction strategies, the conspicuous initiative, thus far, only covers the diamond industry!
As for dolerite and clay the least said, the better. This raises a fundamental question: has the poverty reduction strategy really achieved its objectives?
According to the poverty reduction strategy, the government has completed an agricultural strategy focusing on income generation through specialised high value crops, in the interest of developing agri-business.
Communities will be encouraged to identify fields that have been left fallow for more than five years for re-allocation to landless people wishing to participate in the programme in keeping with the 1979 Land Act.
Now can I remind the Honourable Minister about the current proposed and controversial Land Bill and the fact that Lesotho’s agricultural industry has reached an all-time low?
The plight of informal entrepreneurs, commonly known as baits’okoli, who constitute the SMMEs cannot go unnoticed.
The ruling regime has launched an ossified war, whereby baits’okoli are chased away from the main streets of Maseru. The ostensible encouragement of SMMEs by the ruling party is yet to be seen.
Thahane should have postulated substantial figures fortifying his assessment that the poverty reduction strategy has indeed achieved its intended objectives.
In the absence of clear and convincing figures, the government’s claims that it has done enough to reduce poverty will continue to sound hollow to the Basotho people.

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