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Development equals jobs



It is only when a country develops that jobs are created. Jobs bring hope and purpose to life. They bring structure and discipline. Jobs are a basic human right and not a favour. Young people deserve a chance to put bread on the table. But why is Lesotho not generating jobs? The answer is very simple. It is because of two national liabilities. The first is named politicians and the second one, public servants. Public servants come into this equation because they are very good at placing red tape (stop-nonsense) at any opportunity that lands on their tables. On the other hand, politicians are just good at nothing besides confusing and dividing the nation. If we were to compose a national balance sheet, we would place politicians and public servants under liabilities. And if we were to write-off those liabilities, Lesotho would sprout like a seed soaked in fresh summer rain. It is an open secret that Lesotho is held back by politicians and public servants and no offence to any hard working and disciplined public servants. But the truth of the matter is that the state and nation are held ransom hence the under-development, poverty and joblessness. Had those two variables been absent since independence, Lesotho would have been far, possibly with skyscrapers and industrial parks all over the country. We don’t need to spend millions on national reforms yet the answers are right here in front of our eyes. Politicians and public servants! Mark Twain once said, “Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often, and for the same reason”. I agree with him 100%. I also agree with sentiments echoed by Chief Khoabane Theko when he said Lesotho politicians take the nation for granted. He couldn’t have said it better. Chief Theko made that statement in last week’s re-opening of the Senate Parliament, from the winter recess. The statement was with reference to the harrowing queues witnessed at different Home Affairs offices, as well as the Central Charge Office, in Maseru. I’ve never seen queues as long as the ones at the Central Charge office. They snaked from the Central Charge office, all the way into Lerotholi Road near Radio Lesotho, all the way down past the Royal Palace, right down to the traffic department. That was just a display of desperation and misery from the youth. Poor young people! I was reliably informed that the youth that had queued up for jobs at different Home Affairs offices (including the one at Maseru Mall) were simply wasting time because positions had already been filled through political means. I mean, how’s that for cruelty towards the youth? It is evident that Lesotho needs jobs and quite desperately for that matter. However, one thing that I always find astonishing about us as a nation is that we are so anti-development. Lesotho governments are not pro-development and Basotho people are generally negative towards development. So how are jobs going to be created? During my childhood days growing up in a village named Ha Sekepe in Mazenod, I would accompany my father to visit his friend named Ntate Senaoana, the late former Governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho, on most Sundays. At the time, in the mid 90’s, Ntate Senaoana was the Minister of Finance. So, sometimes when my father was busy talking to Ntate Senanoana, I’d eavesdrop into their conversation and there was always a level of consistency in the tone of their conversation. Ntate Senaoana would say, “Haai Ntate, ke hore ha ke tsebe hore na bahlanka ba ‘muso ke batho ba mofuta ofeng”, meaning I don’t understand the nature and mindset of our public servants. He’d go on to say, “ha u re o tla ka hona, ba tla u joetsa na e ke se sebetse hobaneng”, meaning, if you table something to public servants, they will come up with all the reasons why it cannot happen. This was at a time when the dream to build the Post Office Building and Moposo House was being developed. There was so much red tape from the public servants to build the “twin towers”. The project had to be bulldozed to come into fruition. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of our public servants. To just say “no” even before understanding the merits of a project. You know, in life, if you don’t want something to work, you can come up with all the reasons why it cannot work and it won’t work. If the French government and its public service didn’t want the Airbus A380 to work, they could’ve raised all sorts of reasons why it wouldn’t fly. But it did, despite its sheer size. There are several examples of projects such as the Post Office building that faced immense sabotage. The list is long enough to fill two pages of an A4 exercise book. The nearest that comes to mind is the Pioneer Mall development. I’ve never seen a project that was attacked as that one. If it were for certain people in some pockets of our economy, Pioneer Mall shouldn’t have come to birth. They attacked the project left right and centre. It was firstly attacked for failing environmental studies (EIA’s). Neng-neng, “no, it has been built on a wetland”. Neng-neng, “no, it should’ve been built around the Mazenod/Airport area because in South Africa malls are built out of the city”. Really! Today, Pioneer Mall is a modern-day success story of how Basotho people can work together. One always imagines how the modern-day urban landscape of Maseru would have looked without the Post Office buildings and Pioneer Mall. Probably something like the Agric Headquarters or Senate Offices (Lirutha) /hovels. Imagine the number of jobs that have been created by Pioneer Mall to date. What about the tax revenue generated by the entire development? Funny enough, the very same people that were sabotaging the Pioneer Mall development, are the ones that push trollies with pride, in and around the mall. How’s that for hypocrisy? There are so many projects that faced sabotage and I have a few in my laptop. Projects that could have generated hundreds of jobs. But it’s not only public servants that are to blame for sabotage. Even employees of certain the state agencies/parastatals are to blame. More especially, a certain director from a certain municipality in the country. If you are in the property and construction industry, you know exactly whom I’m talking about. This is a daily frustration of developers and investors. As I said last week, money knows no boundaries and has no loyalty towards anyone. If Basotho public servants keep on playing politics and not enabling development, money will go elsewhere. That is the reason why countries such as Botswana and Eswatini (Swaziland) keep on flourishing. The latest development that was frustrated from its inception stage is the recently opened Masianokeng Lifestyle Centre. Yes, Muckraker had a chuckle or two when the roof of the centre was blown off, about a month ago. But for us developers, we were in mourning because we know the struggle it takes to even start digging the first foundations. Believe it or not, it took well over ten years of baking the project in the oven. Ten years! Well, at the time when the project was ready to start, it was delayed because of red tape from government officials to process various permit applications. Guys we are going nowhere with this kind of attitude. It now brings a good feeling when one sees dozens of young people walking to the new Pick ’n Pay store in Masianokeng, with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Who would have given those young people jobs? Government? This nasty habit of sabotaging projects has become our daily bread as developers and prospects of creating jobs suffer as a result. It is actually an act of self-sabotage. In addition, prospects of generating more tax revenue suffer as well. That is the reason why the LRA is just not collecting anything from the domestic economy (M5.5 billion in the year 2020). In closing, investment equals development and development equals jobs and we can’t do it on our own. We need investors’ money to grow the economy. In a modern economy, the government should be an enabler for the private sector to create jobs. It is the role of the private sector to create jobs and unless we change our bad habits, the unemployment crisis will continue to deepen further. Lastly, I will keep on drumming the following message until it goes through the ears of our leaders. It is time to set up a development fund. It can be named the Loti Development Fund. Sell assets that are derelict and have no value in terms of creating jobs and generating tax revenue. Sell assets such as the Moshoeshoe I International Airport, ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre, Victoria Hotel and Setsoto Stadium. They can be sold to an entity such as Emirates Airlines for example. The government is just bad at managing those assets and those assets are not generating jobs and not much tax revenue either. Those assets are better off in the hands of the private sector. Sell those assets and deposit proceeds of sale into the fund in order to create a new set of assets (universities, hospitals, highways, bridges and dams). That is what we call development. We can’t keep assets for the sake of national pride (bo-Post Bank, bo Basotho Canners), yet our young people live in extreme poverty and desperation. Something has to give! ‘Mako Bohloa

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