Half of Lesotho languishing in poverty – report


Bereng Mpaki

HALF of Lesotho’s 2 million population still lives in abject poverty despite 47 000 people having graduated from the poverty bracket over the past 15 years.

This is according to the Lesotho Poverty Assessment report conducted by the Ministry of Development Planning and the World Bank.

The report highlights the country’s poverty trends and analysis from 2002 to 2017. The report was launched in Maseru by Development Planning minister Tlohelang Aumane yesterday.

The event was also attended by World Bank country representative Janet Entwistle and country director Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.

Lesotho’s poverty rate slightly fell from 56.6 percent in 2002 to 49.7 percent in 2017, with greater poverty reduction noted in urban areas than rural parts of the country.

With Lesotho’s poverty datum line pegged at M648.88 per adult monthly, this means that about 50 percent of the country’s population cannot afford to raise M648.88 for food.

“Lesotho poverty rate fell from 56.6 percent in 200 to 49.7 percent in 2017,” the report reads.

“Lesotho’s poverty rate, measured at the national poverty line of M648.88 (2017 prices) per adult equivalent per month, fell about seven percentage points over a 15-year period.

“This translates to about 47 000 Basotho escaping poverty during this period. In 2017, 27.3 percent of Basotho were poor at the international poverty line of US$1.90/day (in 2011 purchasing power parity terms).”

Compared to Lesotho’s Southern African Customs Union (SACU) peers, the figure is high considering that South Africa (18.9 percent), Botswana (16.1 percent) and Namibia (13.4) are relatively lower. Only eSwatini has a comparable international poverty rate.

Among others, the report attributed Lesotho’s high poverty levels to the declining SACU remittances, exposure to weather-related shocks, low human capital, deficiencies in the labour market and low paying agricultural sector, and limited social protection programmes.

World Bank senior economist, Victor Sulla, said Lesotho needed to improve human capital development, agricultural productivity and build resilience against economic and environmental shocks to address its poverty challenges.

“Lesotho needs a combination of policies that improve human capital, promote job creation and address high unemployment, increase agricultural returns and productivity, together with those that build resilience against economic and environmental shocks should reduce poverty,” Mr Sulla said.

Addressing guests at the launch, Mr Aumane said the marginal decrease in poverty over the past 15 years offers hope that the country was on track to tackling its challenges.

“Although the poverty rates are still high, the current reduction is a step in the right direction and shows that we are doing something right.

“The poverty maps present a telling story which we must look at carefully. Urban areas recorded strong poverty reduction, while in rural areas poverty levels were marginal, adding to an already large urban-rural disparity. The urban poverty rate decreased to 28.5 percent from 41.5 percent during the same period while in rural areas poverty moved marginally from 61.3 percent to 60.7 percent.

“The reduction in urban poverty was driven by improvements in education and skills, formal wage jobs and an expansion of social protection in the country. This shows successful efforts by the government in terms of the social protection policy,” Mr Aumane said.

He also noted that although the rate of inequality fell significantly over the past 15 years, Lesotho remained one of the countries with the highest inequality.

He attributed the high inequality rates to the urban-rural disparities, public-private wage gaps and discrepancies in educational outcomes. The fall in inequality was associated with an expansion of social protection and wage income.

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