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Career politicians have ruined the country: Matlanyane

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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FORMER Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, will tomorrow venture into unfamiliar territory as a parliamentary candidate for the Qalabane constituency.

She will be contesting on a Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party ticket. 

Like fellow RFP parliamentary hopeful, Nthomeng Majara (Maseru Central constituency), Dr Matlanyane is trailblazer. 

She is the first female to be appointed governor and chairperson of the board of directors of the CBL.

She is an accomplished economist and seasoned policy maker with vast experience in financial matters. Before being appointed CBL governor, Dr Matlanyane was an economics lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). The Lesotho Times (LT) Editor, Herbert Moyo, this week engaged Dr Matlanyane who spoke about her decision to seek political office. She also shared her views about the challenges affecting the economy.

Excerpts:

LT: You had a distinguished career as an academic and technocrat. Why the switch to politics?

Matlanyane: Firstly let me clarify that I haven’t switched careers. Your question suggests that I have changed careers. I’m an economist before anything else and shall remain one. Democracy dictates that nations be administered by the so called ‘politicians.’ Under normal circumstances, anyone would have a base career or some expertise that defines them, and that they can apply anywhere including in public administration or in the public sector. It is pitiful that in many instances the word ‘politician’ is used loosely to define everyone that joins politics whether they have a base career or not. More disturbing is the fact that politics have come to be viewed as an easy aperture and a lucrative career by those who have failed to build a career for themselves to get into public administration. Sadly, it is the latter practice that has brought shame and destruction to many economies and nations.

LT: Of all the parties you could have joined, why the RFP and not any other?

Matlanyane: Government is arguably one of the largest institutions in any country. Entrusting the running of a government to personnel who do not have even the most basic skills to do so (be they in leadership or some technical area of competency) is one of the most basic errors that our nations and people have consistently made overtime.

Secondly, public policy making (whether it’s economic policy or other policies) and politics are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if used properly, they complement each other very well.

And thirdly, nothing is more gratifying than being of service to my country at a time that it needs my services. Again, let me clarify that I did not join the RFP.  I’m one of the founders of the RFP. The RFP is founded on the quest to save Lesotho and Basotho from total and absolute destruction. That alone is sufficiently big and noble for me to venture into. It is the principles for which RFP stands that resonate with my resolve to be part of it.

LT: As a finance and economic expert, how would you describe the economic/development challenges confronting Lesotho?

Matlanyane: Lesotho is confronted with enormous socio-economic challenges. The country suffers from low levels of economic growth, chronic and high levels of unemployment, deep income inequalities as well as severe macroeconomic imbalances. These include increasing fiscal deficits, external sector deficits and high levels of debt that we do not have the capacity to service. These are a result of decades of economic mismanagement and flawed and reckless, if not inconsistent or even non-existent economic policies. Our economy is demand-driven, with government being the anchor to all economic activity. The supply side is close to non-existent and the private sector is very small. This renders the export base small and limited. Yet we’re one of the few economies with an import bill that is larger than our GDP. The unsustainable fiscus is at the centre of the troubles as government struggles to consolidate its position in the face of uncontrollable spending against shrinking revenues. It is no longer our indicators alone that signal a dying economy. The extent of the damage to our economy is visible as it is felt in every unit, be it in business, in government, in key institutions and in households. Social unrest is often the first signal of the results of the economic collapse.

LT: From your experience, do you think the Central Bank had enough independence to implement the best policies to promote development in the country?

Matlanyane: The Central Bank of Lesotho Act of 2000 grants it operational autonomy. However, structural impediment and institutional arrangements limits the Bank when it comes to its design and implementation of policy that supports and promotes economic development. Lesotho is a member of the Common Monetary Area that put the Loti at par with the Rand. While this arrangement has great benefits to Lesotho, it also limits its policy space. Lesotho cannot deviate much from South Africa in terms of monetary policy. Notwithstanding that, Lesotho is at liberty to develop markets and infrastructure to improve the potency of its policy.

LT: Many people have argued that the Lesotho Central Bank exists only in name. It merely rubber stamps financial and economic policies drawn up in South Africa. What is your take? Is our Central Bank truly independent of South Africa?

Matlanyane: I strongly disagree with the view that the Central Bank of Lesotho exists only in name, and that it exists mainly to rubber stamp financial and economic policies drawn up in South Africa. It is a reckless and very narrow minded statement in my opinion. There’s much more to the Central Bank than monetary policy. Aside from being the Authority that designs and implements monetary policy, and therefore maintaining price stability, the Bank has very important responsibilities of developing financial markets and related infrastructure, regulating the financial system and maintaining financial stability. In this respect, the Central Bank of Lesotho is independent from South Africa. Needless to say, any amount of dependence between the two is primarily a function of the dependence of the economy of Lesotho on that of South Africa, a phenomenon that Lesotho has to wean itself from. The importance and value of both price and monetary stability would be appreciated much more if there were to be instability that would result in much higher rates of inflation and collapse of institutions, systems and markets that make up the financial system. The havoc and mayhem that could result from such and eventuality would be of untold proportions.

LT: Does the RFP have an economic blueprint? If so, what are the major issues the party proposes to tackle if voted into power? 

Matlanyane: Indeed. The RFP has an economic blue print that addresses key areas of concern to unlock growth, employment and macroeconomic stability. The blueprint proposes the implementation of identified strategies in a manner that would guarantee sustained, inclusive and balanced growth as well as its equitable distribution.  These are summarized in what we have termed ‘revolutions’ targeted to the following broad areas grouped into productive areas, which are targeted at increasing and enhancing production in order to ignite the supply side of the economy; increasing and improving delivery of services in pursuance of efficiency and excellence and reduction of transaction costs; reforming and strengthening governance of institutions and addressing implementation barriers.

Under the Enhancing Productivity section we will strive to achieve the following:

  • Agricultural Production Revolution
  • Energy Security Revolution
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Infrastructure Revolution
  • Natural Asset Wealth Revolution

Under Enhancing Service Delivery, we will strive to achieve the following:

  • Health Security Revolution
  • Education Revolution
  • Social Security Revolution
  • ICT Revolution
  • Development Finance Revolution

Under Strengthening Institutions, we will strive to achieve the following:

Implementation Revolution