Lesotho’s new hope for economic growth is fast becoming cannabis production, with Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro describing the cannabis industry as a “wonderful initiative.” This he said during presentation of the national budget on Tuesday (12/03/2019), after confirming the Government of Lesotho was broke.
During a question and answer session held after presentation of the budget, Dr Majoro, flanked by his technocrats, called for barriers to be removed to ease investments in the industry.
“Government has tapped into a new emerging agricultural market of producing medical cannabis for exportation and processing. The ministries of Health, Agriculture and Food Security as well as Trade and Industry have joined hands to make this wonderful initiative a success,” he emphasized.
He stated that one of the investors who had planted cannabis for medical purposes was ready to export his produce, adding that 50 licenses had already been issued, with more expected to be allotted for more investors and increased job creation for Basotho. The target, he said, was 80 investors expected to inject M10 Billion into the Lesotho economy and 20 000 new jobs .
Dr Majoro said the Government was facing a fiscal and job crisis. The government would go all out, as a result, to court investors and inject fresh energy into the economy. He added that the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) were incubating several new business ventures including eight new factories in clothing and electrical components. These would yield an estimated 8000 new jobs in two years.
He further stated that LNDC would finalise plans for, among other things, integrated piggery, poultry and aquaculture in Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Maseru for both domestic and export markets.
“We have learnt that as Basotho we plant first and look for markets after harvesting. But we should find markets first so that we can know what to produce. There is, therefore, going to be a vegetable project at Masianokeng, driven by markets,” he said.
Much as Dr Majoro was concerned about overspending as opposed to revenue collection, which had resulted in a deficit, he was optimistic that for 2019/20 revenue collection would rise by 3.4 percent points of the GDP to M18.1 billion. His was concerned, though, that the bulk of the country’s finances were channeled towards wages and salaries of public servants.
He bemoaned the fact that the government was the biggest employer with over 47 000 people in a population of two million. Further, that government may have to freeze jobs while there are over 12 000 graduates unemployed. He saw the only way out of the dilemma as enhanced participation of the private sector in job creation.
Despite other views that the budget was more or less a replica of last year’s, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Monyane Moleleki, praised Dr Majoro for making a bold budget speech. He expressed hope that Lesotho would one day come out of poverty like Ethiopia and Rwanda which are performing extremely well in growing their respective economies.