Plans afoot to create 50 000 jobs

majoroBy Tsitsi Matope

MASERU — The Minister of Development Planning, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, has revealed his department’s roadmap aimed at propelling Lesotho to new levels of socio-economic prosperity by creating 50 000 jobs.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Lesotho Times last week, Majoro highlighted his ministry’s macro-targeting and goal-based plan for the country’s social development and economic recovery, which is expected to create 50 000 private-sector jobs over the next five years.

Lesotho’s current official unemployment rate stands at 24 percent — a figure that some stakeholders have, however, disputed as being too conservative.

However, according to Majoro, with proper planning it is possible to dig Lesotho out of the hole of stagnation it currently finds itself stuck in, thereby propelling the country to new heights of development.

The former principal secretary in the then Ministry of Finance and Development Planning between 2004 and 2008, stressed such ambitious targets could only be met with the full collaboration of various stakeholders within the public and private sectors.

“We need to understand each sector’s situation and then forecast the direction they should take without necessarily deciding programmes for them,” Majoro said.

He explained the importance of working collectively to help create an enabling investment environment, which he said would go a long way to stimulate the economy and support entrepreneurship.

However, in these efforts, Majoro said the development of certain sectors should be prioritised — especially those which help create jobs, reduce poverty and inequality, as well as increase food security.

According to Majoro, it is important for the government to put money where more benefits would be accrued, adding an informed plan of action could also help in the effective use of limited funding, hence the importance of prioritised investment.

Impact-maximising actions, which in turn could be linked or traced to the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) of 2012-2017, should be prioritised and then programmes funded fully, the minister pointed out.

“But we also need to monitor and evaluate ourselves and be realistic about our national performance. This would help to assess whether we are going forward or backwards.

“This monitoring mechanism is currently being rolled-out to ensure all ministries remain on track.”

He further said by the end of 2014, the systems would be able to assess the performance of sectors targeted for a leap in development.

“We are serious about this because we are transitioning from a longstanding system where, for many years, government operations were ad hoc and not driven by policy or through proper systems.”

While acknowledging there were high expectations from the public for the current government to improve livelihoods, Majoro however, noted there is little appreciation of how much policy work and systems’ restoration is needed to deliver on these expectations.

And by creating a business-friendly environment and also promoting the utilisation of land and developing skills in various key sectors, the minister said more opportunities for poverty alleviation would be created.

“The challenge is we have lost so much time, 47 years to be specific. This results from years of weak governance systems as seen by lack of policies or effective policies in some key development areas.

“Without policies or effective instruments where we need them most, we can’t tell where we are heading. We are now working at achieving well-standardised systems that can respond to our needs, set ourselves targets and make it possible to measure our performance.”

Performance-assessment, according to Majoro, is “a big issue” that also extends to ministers who this month signed a performance agreement with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.

“As ministers, we want to lead by example. We have set ourselves goals and performance-assessments will be conducted periodically,” Majoro said.

The assessments, he added, would provide an opportunity for government, ministers, and the civil service to learn from past implementation mistakes, while also giving the Prime Minister an opportunity to dismiss underperforming ministers as is the case in Rwanda — a country that now out-performs other countries in Africa in development gains.

Majoro is, however, determined to ensure his ministry is not found wanting when the assessment bell rings.

The objective of his ministry, he reiterated, is to set goals and provide guidelines through the NSDP which, if properly followed, would turn the country’s economic turbines.

“The NSDP pushes for the achievement of goals which include shared job-creating growth, the enhancement and development of skills, improved health with a major focus on combating HIV and Aids, environment protection and achieving good governance.

“We are also providing expertise to allow the government to work in priority sectors that would make economic growth happen.”

The minister said putting more energy and resources in growing commercial agriculture, tourism, building capacity of the textile sector and information communication technology (ICT) can drastically transform the economy.

“We also have other sectors such as mining, water and energy, which are natural economic accelerators because they have large, secured investments for the next few years.

We hope 50 000 jobs would be created in the private sector alone if we intensify working towards achieving our goals and through the priority sectors.”

Majoro further explained a breakthrough was needed in the commercial agriculture sector if Lesotho is to transform into the food-secure and prosperous nation that it strives to be.

“We need to opt for other routes other than just maize production. Basotho have been growing fruit-trees, peas, tomatoes, carrots, butternuts and others. The problem is the unworkable and inconsistently executed value-chains.

Most of our farmers tend to produce and then try to market. But at that time, it is probably too late for the farmer to have the right quality at a price dictated by the market. Marketing arrangements should precede production.”

Horticultural pilot projects established in the last four years, he pointed out, had proved Lesotho has a market-share in the global fruit sector.

“We just need to plan right in terms of support to farmers for them to understand the ‘market-first’ approach, develop skills and help them understand the importance of consistent production and value-addition.”

The minister however, also emphasised the importance of the private sector.

“What we are doing, in this regard, is to link the sectors together, provide ideas and also promote the development or enhancement of systems needed to achieve a private sector-driven economy.”

Majoro also said the government needs to “up its game”, particularly where inefficiency can break business deals.

A change in the working-culture in government, where operations tend to go in circles can help Lesotho achieve her economic goals.

“We are not only banking on the private sector but also advocating for cohesive operations and ensuring officials in different ministries talk to one another. We are doing our part to fix the systems to make sure that the government also pushes in the same direction.”

Fixing the systems would re-engineer and make services more efficient, Majoro said.

“There were some practices we were doing for years, without checking whether they were still necessary in this digital era or we were just wasting resources. This has to change.

“On the other hand, we also have recent initiatives under the public financial management reforms such as the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, which is a policy-oriented budgeting principle, and new procurement system introduced in 2005, and Integrated Financial Management and Information System launched in 2009 which were to transform government operations, but were poorly implemented.

“The Minister of Finance recently re-launched the reforms to correct the implementation errors that have created so much frustration with government payments and continue to undermine policy in budgeting.”

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