PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane yesterday officially launched the Lesotho Economic Laboratories initiative which is expected to lead to the creation of 22 000 jobs.
The launch comes after the Minister of Development Planning, Tlohelang Aumane recently told the Lesotho Times that the government would engage in dialogue with the private sector to bridge the unemployment gap.
Mr Aumane said the Lesotho Investment and Economic Laboratory initiative is a response to the high rate of unemployment on the back of the government’s failure to create 10 000 jobs annually as promised since the first National Strategic Development Plan from the 2012/13 to the 2017/18 financial year.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, Lesotho’s official unemployment rate was 32, 8 percent in 2016, although the figure has likely risen since then.
Mr Aumane said the 2019 Lesotho Investment and Economic Laboratory is a specialised public-private sector dialogue aimed at achieving investment and job creation.
Mr Aumane also said the dialogue which is scheduled to be completed early next month will be an opportunity for private sector entities to share with government agencies the obstacles they encounter in the investment process. He said through the dialogue, both parties will be able to set up a mutually beneficial process to implement investment plans.
And in his keynote address at the launch in Maseru yesterday, Dr Thabane said the initiative would assist in meeting the demands of the private sector unlike before when traditional planning approaches failed to meet the actual demands.
Dr Thabane said the government has agreed to adopt the methodology after attending a Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) workshop in Malaysia where the country’s experiences and those of other African countries were shared.
“It is our expectation that the target of creating 22 000 new direct jobs through the economic laboratories will be achieved in the near future,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane further said they were convinced that the laboratory approach is one of the best in accelerating private sector driven economic growth and job creation.
“It is common to see industrial infrastructure that is under-utilised or unoccupied including roads that do not bring in the economic return that was anticipated during the planning stages.
“Consequently, this supply-driven mindset has to change as we cannot afford to spend taxpayers’ money on under-utilised infrastructure,” Dr Thabane said.
Dr Thabane said it is time to shift from the old approach of embracing demand-based developments and promote smart-private and public-private partnerships.
The Prime Minister said the initiative is a timely mechanism that will come in handy in the implementation of the NSDP II.
“The overriding goal of the NSDP II is to promote private sector led, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Employment creation and growth are anchored on four key productive sectors namely commercial agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and creative industry, and technology and innovation,” he said.
“The technical teams, working closely with the principal secretaries and chief executives of relevant parastatals and through the policy direction of the ministers of Development Planning as well as Finance, have completed the pre-laboratory phase which took place for five weeks from 4 February 2019.
“This process involved intensive consultations between the technical teams and potential investors to identify projects in the priority sectors which could help propel our economy. Consultations were undertaken both with the resident private sector and that which is in diaspora.
“We are now at economic lab stage, where deeper engagement and analysis will be done with the selected companies. The economic labs, which will take place from today, 13 March to 4 April 2019, will be configured around the four NSDP II pillars,” Dr Thabane said.