Business calls for investment climate reforms
THE business community says the new government must prioritise the implementation of the 2012 roadmap of reforms aimed improving the regulatory climate which will in turn enable the private sector to increase its contribution to the country’s economic development.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader Thomas Thabane was last Friday sworn in as the new prime minister after his party emerged the biggest winner in the snap polls on 3 June that were held in the aftermath of the 1 March no confidence vote that was passed by the then-opposition on the seven parties’ coalition government headed by Pakalitha Mosisili.
The ABC subsequently combined its 48 seats with the Alliance of Democrats’ nine, Basotho National Party’s five and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho’s one, enabling them to pass the 61-seat threshold required to form government in the 120-seat National Assembly.
Former Prime Minister Mosisili’s Democratic Congress obtained 26 constituency seats and four PR seats and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy obtained one constituency seat and 10 PR seats.
A lot is expected of the new government, with the business community keen to see the speedy implementation of the 2012 roadmap of reforms.
Back in 2012, the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) collaborated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern African Trade Hub to develop an investor roadmap that identified 50 investment climate reform recommendations and an action plan to improvement Lesotho’s global rankings as a suitable investment destination.
However, the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PFSL) this week told this publication that little progress had been made in the implementation of the roadmap, saying the new government should prioritise the programme to boost business and economic development.
The PSFL also called for an improvement of public sector payment systems in order to expedite payments of suppliers. It has often been said at various public platforms that delays in effecting payments by government entities was detrimental to the private sector which depended on the government as its major client.
“We are also expecting implementation of LNDC restructuring exercises where three companies will be established in the areas of Investment Promotion, Development Finance, and Property Management,” PSFL chief executive officer Thabo Qhesi said in an interview this week.
“We also expect government to designate commercial and industrial areas in all ten districts of Lesotho in order to ease ways of doing business.”
Mr Qhesi also said there was need for regular public-private dialogue at national and district level to deliberate on critical issues of development.
He also said that government should ensure that all foreign missions to the country had trade and economic attaches in order to promote domestic and foreign direct investment.
For its part, the Junior Chamber International Lesotho chapter (JCI) said it hoped the government would aggressively pursue a massive job creation strategy aimed at reducing high levels of youth unemployment.
JCI President Bokang Molelle also said they would like to see intensive investment in small business development as these were vehicles for economic growth.
“This should include establishment of an effective business development fund because the practice of referring small businesses to commercial banks which demand past performance record is not working to give the necessary support intervention to our small enterprises.
“There must also be controlled imports of goods that are locally produced to enable the growth of small holder farmers to ensure sustainable food security. They must be assisted to establish value chain networks that make it easier for buyers to meet suppliers of different commodities.
“The government must also ensure effective involvement of youth in the national development agenda. Here we can mention the coordination and monitoring of institutions such as the National Youth council with representatives from main local youth organisations, “Mr Molelle said.
Mr Molelle also said that political instability had a negative impact on the business community.
United Textile Employees (UNITE) secretary general, Bahlakoana Lebakae said government should reserve certain sectors for locals.
He said businesses like the sandstone mining should be strictly for locals.