The parliamentary vote on the 2020/21 budget has been delayed again.
This after Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro yesterday withdrew his proposed amendments to the proposed M21, 9 billion budget saying he needed to factor in changes caused by the less than expected revenue collections by the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).
Dr Majoro was yesterday expected to propose amendments to his budget estimates first presented to parliament on 26 February 2020.
Among other things, Minister Majoro had wanted to increase the Ministry of Health’s M3, 67 billion budget in light of the coronavirus pandemic and equally adjust the Ministry of Home Affairs’ M429, 1 million budget.
He, however, withdrew his proposed amendments citing the need to relook them in light of lower revenue collection projections by the LRA.
The minister said he would return to parliament with revised amendments tomorrow. He said the country faces a serious financial crisis due to the Coronavirus-induced slowdown in economic activity.
“I have consulted with my officials and discovered that we are facing a serious financial crisis,” Dr Majoro said.
“The revenue collection figures that are being recorded by the LRA are lower than what we expected.
“I am afraid that the revenue we are going to collect will be far less than the estimates that I presented before the house especially when some taxpayers like the mining companies had suspended operations.
“I therefore ask to withdraw the amendments and come back with more accurate figures on Thursday,” he said.
The speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, granted his request.
Last month the LRA said it had missed its target for 2019/20 by M591, 8 million. The tax authority collected M6, 962 billion against a target of M7, 554 billion.
Dr Majoro presented a M21, 9 billion budget speech on 26 February 2020. The budget should have been approved by parliament before the start of the 2020/2021 financial year on 1 April 2020. However, the budget has still not been approved because of several delays including Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s short-lived prorogation of parliament on 20 March 2020. Mr Thabane had prorogued parliament from 20 March to 19 June 2020, purportedly to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).
Parliament was, however, re-opened on 21 April 2020 after Mr Thabane’s own All Basotho Convention (ABC) party and others successfully challenged the prorogation in the Constitutional Court.