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Lesotho gets MCC nod



MASERU – LESOTHO has qualified to receive funds from the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) after years of failure.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane received a letter from the MCC on December 31 announcing that the country was now eligible to receive the funds.
The letter said the selection of eligible countries for the fiscal year 2019 shows the reselection of Lesotho was based on the improved performance since their prior selection.

Lesotho lost its eligibility in 2014 for the second MCC grant due to political and security upheavals when the army was accused of committing serious human rights violations.
This was after the then army commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli refused to step down after the King fired him, instead the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) attacked police headquarters and major police stations in Maseru.

The army also raided the Prime Minister’s official residence allegedly in search of Prime Minister Thabane, who by that time had skipped the country fearing for his life.
The government described the attack as an attempted coup.
From there, the army persecuted soldiers who were said to be rallying behind the commander appointed by the King, Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Mahao was then murdered in 2015.

The MCC then disqualified receiving any financial grants.
Although Lesotho has qualified for eligibility, this does not guarantee the country will have access to MCC funding.
The letter says the MCC reselected Lesotho to continue developing a Millennium Challenge compact based on the improved performance since their prior selection.
In July 2007, the MCC signed a US$362.5 million (about M4.9 billion) compact with the government of Lesotho to increase economic growth and reduce poverty.
The selection of Lesotho was due to its economy which was reported to be sluggish for more than 20 years and its inability to unlock the potential of its two greatest resources being water and its people.

The compact funded projects in the water sector, health sector and private sector development with the aim to improve water supply, increase health services and remove barriers to private sector investment where approximately 1 million of people were expected to benefit.
The compact ran for five years and ended in September 2013.

The MCC, which is the United States foreign aid agency, was established in 2004 and is helping to lead the fight against poverty in countries which are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens.

The MCC provides time-limited grants promoting economic growth, reducing poverty and strengthening institutions.
According to the letter which was sent to Lesotho’s government on December 31, the MCC considered Lesotho to have improved in the strengthening of democratic institutions, maintaining sound economic policies and investing in its people.

The MCC is expecting Lesotho to continue its support for maintainance of health clinics, water infrastructure and other investments made in the first compact.
The MCC made it clear that for the country to be eligible does not guarantee that it has access to MCC funding but successful development of a compact, strong policy performance on MCC’s scorecard which includes demonstrating commitment to rule of law and accountability is what is important.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman, Thabo Thakalekoala, said the government of Lesotho still has to sit down to work on the project design and state how much the project is going to cost to MCC.
He indicated that this will happen just like before where the project included the building of health centres and other facilities like Metolong Dam.
He said the MCC will review the projects proposed to ensure that those projects will benefit the people, which is the essential focus for MCC on whether the country is committed to invest in its people. Thakalekoala told Lesotho Television this week that the project development will create more jobs in the country.

Refiloe Mpobole

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