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A sensible move



THE government this week bowed to pressure and suspended the controversial M5 000 monthly fuel allowances it awarded to MPs earlier this year. It has instead set up an independent commission to investigate the matter and look into the whole aspect of MPs’ remuneration and benefits. Lehloka Hlalele, who is the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Ministries Portfolio Committee, told Parliament on Tuesday that the controversial move to award the allowance had triggered a national outcry. The setting up of the commission is in response to that outcry. We think this was one of the best decisions Parliament has taken in years. First, it shows that our MPs are not impervious to the national outcry. Suspending the allowances will go a long way in the MPs reclaiming the higher moral ground. This is a group that cannot plead poverty. They earn gross salaries of M37 000 each per month, an amount that is 18 times what an ordinary Mosotho earns in the textile factories. By pushing for a further M5 000 fuel allowance, the MPs came across not just as greedy but as individuals who were out of touch with the plight of the ordinary Mosotho. That is why the matter raised a lot of heat among young Basotho who were going through an extremely rough patch as the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the economy. Some of these youths have never worked 10 years after they graduated from universities. That is critical if we are to appreciate some of the raw anger we saw on the streets earlier this year. It is critical to point out that anger has not died down. In fact, the prospect of food riots driven by sheer desperation remains alive in Lesotho. That is not being alarmist. It’s reality. In any case, we think Parliament has taken this decision to suspend the allowances with one eye on next year’s general elections. The anger the matter generated means this issue of allowances was certainly going to be a key election issue. Our MPs must be seen to be responsive to the national mood. It cannot be business as usual. The role of Parliament is to craft laws that further the interests of the people. Being an MP should not be seen as an opportunity to get closer to the feeding trough. We cannot understand why our MPs would want to argue and push for higher salaries beyond what the country can afford. Instead of complaining about poor remuneration, our MPs should be crafting creative ways to attract better investments into Lesotho and boost our anaemic economy. They should be helping look for ways to help expand the tax base. When the economy thrives, they too will benefit from the proceeds. At present, it would be futile to argue why they are not receiving salaries and benefits like their compatriots in Botswana or South Africa for that matter. The simple truth is that our economy is way too small to support such lavish outlays. This is no way an attempt to downplay the immense sacrifices and hard work they put in meeting community needs. We appreciate their work. However, they must always be wary that in pushing for better remuneration, they do not antagonise the people they are meant to serve. Lesotho is looking for servant leadership. It is not looking for MPs who think their position in Parliament gives them a front seat on the feeding trough.

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