Governance And Rising Aspirations In The Mountain Kingdom Of Lesotho
At the recently ended World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim highlighted development issues that keep him up at night. Among them was the ‘rising aspirations’ around the world.
By Elita Banda
People all over the world are increasingly becoming connected to the internet, as information is becoming more accessible. People in developing countries see the quality of life being experienced by those in developed countries, and they too aspire to have the same comforts.
President Kim went on to state that raising aspirations are good, and when met with opportunities they can lead to dynamism and drive inclusive and sustainable growth. However, if met with frustration they can lead to fragility, conflict, extremism and migration.
In Lesotho and in most parts of Africa, these aspirants are the youth. They are the ones in search of opportunities that will guarantee them a better livelihood. This has birthed in them a desire to live in developed nations whose environments are conducive for the evolution of the many dreams they aspire to see become reality.
In 2017 African heads of state and government declared the theme of the African Union: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth”.
Discussions were held and African youth were invited to the AU and other platforms on different occasions, to discuss issues affecting the continent, ranging from unemployment, entrepreneurship, peace and security.
However, one cannot help but wonder what this demographic dividend promises, and how the knowledge of its potential gains or perils translates into, actions on the ground for governments, private sector, civil society and individuals.
How does this opportunity translate into national actions towards, equipping young people with the necessary skills to meet job market demands, foster entrepreneurship, build infrastructure that links urban and rural communities, promote equitable and inclusive opportunities for development, and strengthen national health and welfare systems? This is a question I feel is yet to be answered fully.
The demographic dividend in Lesotho will provide an opportunity to productively employ a young and healthy workforce that could possibly trigger an increase in output per capita. However potential gains from the dividend are just a mirage if we do not invest in human capital and employment, as revealed by a studyconducted by the World Bank.
Studies and policies of the possibilities the future holds are of no use if leaders do not have the will power and vision to implement them. There is little evidence of clear and concrete action taken by government through its relevant ministries to address current problems and future threats.
What then should the government do to better facilitate the development process and meet the aspirations of a growing population of young people? There are three elements which I propose the government requires to be able to meet the aspirations of young people:
The role of leadership and oversight in development has often been under emphasized or deemed as a “nice-to-have”. Visionary leadership is what it takes for a country to move from the abyss of underdevelopment to becoming a thriving economy.
The evidence of this is seen in the development course of countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Rwanda. Emerging from the ashes of the Korean war, Park Chung Hee of South Korea had a clear vision of the kind of nation he wanted to build, and that was an industry led economy.
President Hee had a vision to lift the country up from being a Third World economy to a First World economy. True enough his period of leadership brought forth significant economic expansion. Today, South Korea is a leading exporter of electronic products, machinery and automobiles.
A prudent public finance system and a results oriented service delivery approach.
As opposed to being the driving force behind service delivery and achieving development goals, the public sector in Lesotho has become a burden on the country’s fiscus. According to the 2016 Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Assessment, there is significant fiscal indiscipline resulting in wasteful government expenditure, due to weak linkages between policy formulation and their implementation.
This has led to a misallocation of scarce government resources, which has in-turn resulted in poor service delivery.
Budget allocation in health and education are the highest, however health and education outcomes in Lesotho still remain weak. Public spending should be directly traceable to development outcomes.
A performance based approach to service delivery will also save the country millions of maloti. Civil servants, should be remunerated based on a set of key performance indicators. Reformation in Lesotho’s Public Finance sector, will allow for greater resource management and accountability.
A policy implementation framework that allows for iteration and learning.
Governments tend to stick with policies that do not work. This often leads to frustration from both implementers and beneficiaries of the policies.
The channels of communication between policy designers and those charged with implementation should be open to allow for swift changes and modifications where necessary. Frequent reviews of instituted policies need to be carried out and measured, as this allows for measurement of effectiveness and efficiency.
The duty of meeting rising aspirations and creating conducive environments for growth, largely remains the governments. It is only when government leaders take their call of duty seriously, will they be able to meet the needs of young people who are eager for opportunities.
If achieving the basic conditions for development does not keep our leaders up at night and propel them to action, the results are bound to be catastrophic as mentioned by President Jim Yong Kim, even for a small nation such as Lesotho.