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We’ve a constipated economy



I need not elaborate on the pain of having constipation but one thing is for sure – it’s never a good feeling. I live with a Doctor and listen to all sorts of horror stories in the evening after work. I guess it’s some sort of a de-junking session. I listen to so many stories that I’ve somehow become a doctor by default. At this stage, I’m sure I can prescribe paracetamol or acetaminophen commonly known as Panado. You see, I even know the terms. I was once told a hilarious story of an attempted hijacking gone wrong and surely this one wins the trophy by far. This was when one gentleman attempted to hijack a vehicle somewhere in Pretoria and got shot in the abdomen. This was obviously an emergency and the hijacker had to be rushed to the hospital with hands cuffed to the stretcher. When the hijacker arrived in the hospital emergency room, a team of doctors and senior nurses was quickly assembled to start the operation. Well, no one wanted to assist a criminal to survive a near death experience but they had all taken an oath to save lives. So, during the operation and procedure to remove the bullet in the abdomen, the professor asked for the dosage of the anesthetic to be reduced gradually so that the hijacker gets back to his senses. The professor said, “I want to teach this bugger a lesson”. And slowly, slowly, slowly, the dosage of the anesthetic was reduced and the hijacker gained consciousness until he woke up. The stomach was fully opened with intestines fully exposed so you can imagine the horror of a person that lost consciousness when he attempted to hijack a vehicle in town, only to wake up in a room full of people in gowns, a policeman sitting in the corner and his stomach open, intestines fully exposed and his hands cuffed to the hospital bed. It must have felt like a scene from a horror movie or a real nightmare. So, when the hijacker finally woke up and saw his open stomach opened, he shouted and cried out loud in horror. The senior nurses, bo-sister, were there to tell the criminal a thing or two. They kept on saying, “Yes! Le sele hampe. Le tla tsoela ho utsoa ntho tsa batho”. Meaning, you criminals are so silly. You will learn to stop crime the hard way. Yes, it was a hilarious story to listen to and a story that I’ll never forget but I’m sure that the poor guy couldn’t believe his eyes. The moral of the story was that crime does not pay and the nurses removed a thing or two from their chests. This could be a good lesson for our politicians here at home. Yes, those are the stories I listen to on a daily basis and I have somehow become a master of the human anatomy. But one thing that fascinates me is how food is processed in the stomach and nutrients delivered in the body. Without starting to sound like Tšepang Ledia on the next page, we can all agree on the pain caused by constipation. This is a feeling that one gets, when the stomach feels so full but nothing comes out on a toilet visit. It is such a lousy feeling and we’ve all experienced the feeling. One way or the other. This is the same thing that happens in our economy. Our economy is so busy but nothing comes out at the end of the financial year in terms of tax revenue or even jobs. Nothing! We have a busy economy. Government vehicles are always busy moving up and down. Ministers are always on LTV cutting ribbons. Sometimes even cutting ribbons for an opening of a community tap. Yes, an opening of a tap to demonstrate that water can come out. Haai! The things we see on LTV! If it’s not government officials on LTV, it is the diplomatic corps or development partners trying to demonstrate how useful they are. Please! Businessmen and women are busy. Some of them like myself, spend the whole year printing “I hereby” proposals that gather dust on desks of Ministers and PS’s. Trucks loading cement, beer, maize-meal and fuel crisscross the country to make deliveries. From the outside, this looks like a very busy economy but when it is time to produce results, dololo! Nothing comes out. This situation can be reckoned to those students that study so hard but keep on failing every time a test is written. We all know them. They would never attend a party or go anywhere. They are always in the library even during odd hours of the evening but come exam time, dololo! No good results and this would be so heartbreaking considering the time, effort and sacrifices made. I don’t know why I seem to be the only one concerned about our low tax revenue collection. Not even the Commissioner General from the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) nor the Minister of Finance seem to be perturbed by this trend. It is as if they’ve said, “We already know that we are going to fail and there is no need to study harder”. And this is deeply concerning. Our young people were out to spark protest under the theme or hash-tag Bacha shut-down. But what I found sad is that our young people are desperate for jobs and rightfully so but the economy is not performing, as it should in order to create jobs. Secondly, our young people keep on making the same old mistakes. One, they don’t vote come election time. In fact, they never vote. Point number two, they think that the government will do something to solve their problems. Now, let’s put this into perspective. One, you don’t vote and expect someone you didn’t vote for to put bread on your table. How is that even possible? But the youth are correct to protest. A job is a basic human right but our politicians don’t give a damn about the economy and let me tell you why. Our politicians believe that they can run an economy without tax revenue collection. This is like attempting to drive a car without petrol. Taxes are the petrol for running a vehicle called government and why are taxes important? If we have less activity in the economy, like trade, buying and selling of goods, we’ll have low VAT collection and subsequently, less corporate tax from companies. If less people are economically active and the unemployment rate is high, we’ll have less or lower collections of Personal Income Tax. Tax revenue is at the core of enabling government to operate. That is the main source for salaries of public servants. That is where the money to build schools comes from. That is the money used to build roads, bridges and to connect electricity in villages. Without tax revenue, the government becomes dysfunctional. Our economy gives an output of about of M5.5 billion per annum in domestic tax revenue collection. That is a collection of domestic taxes in terms of Value-added Tax (VAT), Pay As You Earn (Personal income tax) and company or corporate taxes. No, here is our problem. With the low tax revenue collections that we have, our MPs still want a pay rise. Hao banna! Even the Senators have joined this choir and they are singing a tenor. The Senators have been on LTV protesting about all sorts of things, from low salaries to not having I-pads. In a way, they were trying to say we want more money and we demand I-pads. Kids want jobs and parents demand I-pads. The kind of leaders we have in this country! Well, it is nice to have more money in the pocket and to have I-pads but with money from where? Really, with money from where? Our economy is not generating enough cash for us to have the luxury to increase salaries sporadically. Allow me to paint this picture. Botswana, collects well over M60 billion in tax revenue and we only manage to collect about M5.5 billion and maybe M7 billion on a good day. Look at the disparity for a country that was way ahead of Botswana 40 years ago. Now, to demonstrate how dire the situation is, the Lesotho government has to pay M500 million towards government employees (civil servant salaries), each month. Each month! And that goes to about M6 billion per annum on salaries alone. Remember that LRA could only collect M5.5 billion per annum. So, if you want a salary increase, where will the money come from? With money from where? Diamond sales? Water royalties? These are issues that should be raised in the National Assembly. But none of the MPs are really concerned about the issues unless Honourable Ts’ita Mosena raises them. Is she the only voice of reason in Parliament? This is where the need to stimulate the economy comes in and this is where the need to engage the private sector arises. Government cannot do it on its own. The government needs to remember that the role of creating jobs is in the hands of the private sector and not the public sector. In closing, we seem to make money in order to flush it down the drain. It is time to stop the leakages in our economy and start creating an economy that will work and generate results in terms of more tax revenue and jobs. At the moment, our economy needs a laxative named the private sector! ‘Mako Bohloa

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