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Opposition tears into budget speech

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Mathibeli Mokhothu, minced no words in his critique of the recently presented national budget for the fiscal year 2024/2025.

Voiced after the budget’s presentation in parliament on Wednesday by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, Mokhothu’s dissatisfaction stems from what he perceived as a lack of substantial change compared to the previous year’s budget.

Mokhothu who is also the leader of the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) stated: “The latest budget statement is not different from the previous budget and does not say anything about the poverty-stricken population including the marginalised.”

Furthermore, Mokhothu highlighted the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition’s alleged failure to adequately support farmers despite substantial allocations.

“The Ministry of Agriculture was allocated a big chunk of money more than every other ministry last year with M1.1 billion. However, the farmers were complaining about the lack of fertilisers and seeds,” he said.

He expressed concern that the allocated funds might not benefit the intended recipients.

“My fear is that the same money is going to benefit few people, most of them are members of the cabinet.”

Mokhothu also criticised the alleged lack of transparency regarding budget allocations for critical comprehensive national reforms.

“They maintain that they want to proceed with the reforms, but they do not indicate in their budget how much they allocate for the reforms,” he said.

In contrast, he acknowledged certain positive aspects of the budget, including provisions for youth development and an increase in old age pension.

Echoing Mokhothu’s sentiments, the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP), Machesetsa Mofomobe, expressed deep concern over the decline in both recurrent and capital budgets.

Mofomobe emphasised that the lack of detail regarding economic recovery strategies made the budget unconvincing.

“People need to be concerned about the decline in the budget,” he asserted.

“If last year’s budget was about M24 billion and this year it has declined to M21 billion, and the capital budget has also declined from M7 billion to M4 billion, it is very worrisome. Where will the money for important infrastructure projects come from? This implies that there will not be any developments at the community level because there is no capital budget,” he said.

Moreover, Mofomobe criticized the budget’s similarity to the mid-term budget, stating that it did not serve the public’s interest.

He accused Matlanyane of protecting Prime Minister Sam Matekane, alleging that the Prime Minister had personal interests in the mining sector.

“The Minister of Finance was also afraid to tap into the issue of mines,” Mofomobe claimed.

“This is because the mine issue is close to the Prime Minister’s heart and there will never be a single day when we hear the Prime Minister talking about Basotho’s participation in the mining sector,” he added.

He concluded by accusing the government of neglecting the mining sector’s issues and allowing the Prime Minister to strike deals with mining companies instead of supporting Basotho businesses.

Adding to the chorus of dissent, the Leader of United Africans Transformation (UAT), Mahali Phamotse, voiced her concerns about the budget’s alignment with national interests, expressing skepticism about its potential to bring about meaningful change.

“Even if the budget can be allocated, what is important is how it is going to be used to make sure that services get to the nation,” Phamotse said.

She criticised the budget for its focus on uplifting the private sector, lamenting that this primarily benefited the Prime Minister and his cabinet rather than the broader population.

She illustrated her point with an example from the previous budget, highlighting how the allocation for agriculture allegedly primarily benefited the cabinet members who presented themselves as farmers.

Furthermore, Phamotse criticised the government’s procurement practices, noting that they no longer prioritise procuring services but instead prefer to engage in business headhunting.

This, she argued, results in contracts being awarded to businesses owned by government officials, further perpetuating nepotism and favouritism within the system.

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