OP-EDs

FIRST 100 DAYS OF PRIME MINISTER MAJORO’S ADMINISTRATION

By Moeketsi Majoro

It is now 100 days since we took over the reins of government. Let me remind you first that when this administration came into office the COVID-19 pandemic had driven the world into a huge health crisis and plunged the global economy into the worst recession in 90 years.

Even now we do not yet know when an effective vaccine against the coronavirus will be available and how it will be distributed effectively around the world. We were also not insulated from the pandemic. It has had massive disruptions in the lives of our people and affected businesses in multiple ways bringing our economy to a standstill during the 6-weeks lock down.

Some of the repercussions may be long-lasting.

Therefore, we had to take swift and decisive actions to save the lives of our people and protect the economy. The strategy we pursued during our past 100 days in office focused on four core objectives:

(a) Fighting COVID-19 and Protecting Our Society

(b) Ensuring Food Security

(c) Ensuring Business Continuity and Protecting Jobs

(d) Improving Governance and Accountability

What then did we achieve during our first 100 days in office in the midst of COVID-19?

(a) Fighting COVID-19 and Protecting Our Society

In order to fight the pandemic and protect lives of our people, we:

• Restructured the inefficient National Command Center and replaced it with a leaner and a more efficient structure namely the NACOSEC now operating under DMA Act which would provide society with timely updates on the spread of the virus and coordinate the measures meant to curb the spread of the virus. The COVID-19 test results are now released within a shorter period.

• Established the COVID- 19 sub-committee of Ministers, chaired by the Prime Minister to take charge of the pandemic.

• Operationalized an Open Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratory for testing

COVID- 19 and thanks to our Development Partners and business sector in particular Mr. Sam Matekane for his helping hand.

• Trained health workers at the district level on COVID-19 Case Management, surveillance and infection prevention and control on COVID -19 pandemic. Trained health workers in the districts on COVID-19 Case Management, surveillance and infection prevention and control on COVID -19 pandemic.

• Rollout an Electronic Medical Records (E-register) system to 178 Health facilities in order to enhance patients’ data capturing. The system now keeps clear records of all patients including data on HIV & AIDS testing, Care and Treatment, Maternal and Adolescent and Child Health.

• Procured 78,358 PPEs for Grade 7, Form C, Grade 11 and LGCE students and teachers who will soon be returning to classroom. Thanks to Global Partnership for Education who assisted us with USD3.5 million to make this possible.

• Provided 10,000 Litres water tanks to 769 primary schools without water, and such tanks are being delivered to the various schools ‘country-wide so that when leaners open they can adhere to COVID-19 health protocols meant to fight the spread of the disease.

• Conducted a national COVID-19 survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of our people, and to help guide our policy interventions moving forward. I wish to emphasize here that without reliable information and impact assessments, decision making is impossible.

Ladies and Gentlemen recall that Health Protocols meant to curb the spread of the virus require that we wash our hands with soap and running water regularly for about 20 seconds. To assist our communities meet this protocol, we constructed and maintained the rural water supply and sanitation works in:

(a) Leribe; Ha Ratulo,Ha Leshoele/Leaooa/Lesitsi, Ha Koebu, Ha Ralikariki

(b) Mafeteng: Ha Tjaka, Ha Lebamang

(c) Mohale’s Hoek; Ha Pii, Liphiring

(d) Qacha’s Nek; Manteko, Whitehill, Ha Sekake

(e) Quthing; Leqhekaneng, Maheising

(f) Mokhotlong; Mateanong, Mechalleng, Matsoareng

(g)Butha Buthe; Khukhune

To protect members of our society who were hard hit by the pandemic we:

• Increased the number of recipients of Child Grant Program (CGP) from 38,000 to more than 49,000 as a means to protect the vulnerable members of our communities during this trying times of COVID-19 pandemic

• Provided food parcels in two rounds (July, and August) to 100 vulnerable households per council across the country as a response to COVID-19 Pandemic.

• Continued to provide social grants, and wheel chairs to people with disabilities. The Government is in the process of procuring other assistive devices.

• Acceded to the International Child Helpline (116) global network that will help us

standardize service provisions and training of social workers.

• Launched a pilot for new cash payment method of old age pensions at Qachasnek

district which entails the usage of barcodes.

• Extended the bursary payment for a period of three months for both local and

international students whose learning was disrupted by the pandemic.

• Continued to implement our old age pension programme which paid more than 83 000 Pensioners and issued Identification Cards to 3745 Old Age Pensioners in order to enable them receive their Old Age pensions as well in 7 districts across the country.

• While we had to focus our attention to fighting the pandemic other pressing issues in society could not ignored. We had to fight the scourge of gender based violence which had escalated during the pandemic. We accommodated and provided psychosocial support and care to more than 21 survivors of gender – based violence (GBV).

(b) Ensuring Food Security

To enhance food security and protect our farmers we:

• Supported our farmers with a 60% subsidy for 2020/21 Summer Cropping.

• Agreed with Chinese government to buy the famers’ wool and mohair consignment (21 000 bales) that had been stuck in PE South Africa due to the recurrence of Foot and Mouth Disease in South Africa in 2019.

• Facilitated the payments for wool and mohair farmers that were outstanding.

• Completed the construction of Tsikoane Fresh Produce Market Centre, Leribe

• Completed the construction for the first batch of 22 shearing sheds under the Wool and Mohair Promotion Project (WAMPP), in the 10 districts.

(c) Ensuring Business Continuity and Protecting Jobs

COVID-19 has had disruptive impact on our businesses and we had to protect them and save jobs for our people. During the past 100 days we:

• Established the new structures aimed at facilitating closer collaboration between business and government. These include the investment promotion committee (IPC) of all investment ministers plus finance and planning, a Central Investment Delivery Unit (CDU) whose function shall be to coordinate and support investment decisions, and the Office of the Economic Counsellor whose function shall be to undertake policy analysis and provide advice to the Office of the Prime Minister, establish and execute a results monitoring and policy evaluation function, as well as to undertake government business process re-engineering.

• Launched the new business facilities that include a spruced up Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (C-PCG) estimated at M410 million to assist businesses with up to 75 percent loan guarantees, Equity Finance Facility intended for joint projects with LNDC, Project Preparation Facility (PPF), designed to assist companies and businesses in preparing their ideas into bankable projects proposals ready for funding, and Quasi-Equity Fund which is a standardized profit sharing product targeting businesses in Agriculture (50 percent), Manufacturing (30 percent) and Construction/Transport (20 percent).

• Signed off the Business Licensing and Registration regulations that will help formalize businesses by establishing business registry (both formal and informal businesses will have identification).

These regulations will also reduce the cumbersome processes of getting traders licenses by a week. We have abolished board approvals for licenses and businesses can get licenses within a day. The regulations will also standardize classification of business activities.

• Enacted the Security of Interest in Movable Property Law and signed off the implementing regulations. This law and its regulations will facilitate acquisition of credit by individuals and businesses since they collateralize movable property. Businesses and individuals can now use their movable property such as computers, jewellery, vehicles etc. as collateral for their loans.

• Provided 45 000 factory workers with M800 per month for a period of 3 months as a COVID-19 relief measure and to protect their jobs

• Assisted two diamond mines (Kao & Mothae) that were facing financial difficulties due to Covid-19 Pandemic, to get back into operations, and cleared a backlog of mining rights approvals that were pending since November 2019. This includes 2 diamond mining lease applications, 10 quarry mining lease applications at Polihali project and 7 diamond mining prospecting (exploration phase) applications.

• Renewed 245 trademarks, registered 70 trademarks and 112 societies. This registration provides legal protection to the owners for their intellectual property.

(d) Improving Governance and Accountability

The foregoing achievements would not be possible unless we got governance right. To restore integrity, ethics and trust of the people in our administration we:

• Commenced the declaration of assets exercise by Ministers and other senior Government Officials and this exercise is currently ongoing. This forms part of our strides in the fight against corruption.

• Completed the construction of Ts’akholo Police Post Mafeteng to deal with rising crime in that area

• Erected a Satellite Police Post at St Monica Leribe to address increasing crime levels in that area too.

• Completed law indexation project under the Lesotho Law Reform Commission (LLRC).

These results of these efforts has been the recovery of more than 2500 stolen livestock which were returned to rightful owners.

Other Achievements

In addition to the foregoing achievements there were other notable strides that we have made during our 100 days in Office. These include:

• Completion of the construction of community hall at Liphofung, Butha Buthe.

• Completion of the rehabilitation of gravel road from Corn Exchange to Baking in Berea districts has been completed

• Provision of access to our urban and rural communities through an upgrade of Maputsoe Urban Roads: 9km out of 16.38km.

• Completion of the construction of Urban and Community Council offices at Berea and Mazenod.

• Rehabilitation of gravel road from Corn Exchange to Baking in Berea districts has been completed. NW

These are prepared remarks by Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho Dr Moeketsi Majoro on August 31, 2020.

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