The Making of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper was the first national effort in Lesotho and the report to capture the story of the process of making the PRSP by those who participated in it, is also the first experience. The decision to write this report was influenced by the fact that many a time, people forget what process they went through to develop a product like the PRSP once they have realised the outcome.
This report reminds us that, while the PRSP, the final product- was important, but it would not help future processes since it is focused on the content outputs and not the process. The sheer volume of information we received manifested the importance of the process. At times, we were so perplexed by just how much people still remembered as we discussed with them. No doubt, readers will find a number of flaws in this report and some may even not agree with some sections of it.
If this happens, then this report will have achieved its purpose. The authors have no intention of making an impression that they have captured everything perfectly, but wish to demonstrate the enormous energy, commitment and time Lesotho and her partners spent in over 36 months.
Analysis and Approach
The method of approach to the writing of the story was based primarily on field interviews of selected facilitators who managed the consultation process both in the districts. and in the central government in Maseru, the private sector and civil society organisations, and on secondary literature on poverty available in Lesotho. The authors used questionnaires and direct interviewing to generate information from stakeholders. The basic framework of the story was structured from the history of the country.
This was necessary in order to provide a deeper understanding of the growth of poverty in Lesotho. For an important exercise like this, the genesis of poverty in Lesotho needed to be understood critically, to remind policy makers that, poverty in Lesotho is both structural and physical. Structural because systems aimed to deliver services to the people have failed to do so over the last three decades Lesotho has been independent.
The authors start with a premise that poverty in Lesotho cannot be understood properly if it is not linked to issues of governance and the way the country has been managed or the way its resources have been managed. An analysis of the political economy from the pre-colonial era of Moshoeshoe I and through to the period of the independent Lesotho of today, is meant to be a platform for this understanding. In this analysis, distinct differences in governance between the various eras of the Kingdom and the role-played by the state in the economy have been shown.
The degree to which the state dominated or has dominated the socio-economic processes and thereby crowded other stakeholders out of that active participation has been explained. The verdict the report gives is that, the state tended to dominate the market place and therefore, largely influenced how resources were utilised and controlled. That static approach, tended to suppress the growth of the private sector. Basic resources like land and human labour were not managed efficiently and used effectively to optimise production of public goods.
In terms of land resource, the report points out the limitation of this asset as a means of production, firstly due the insufficiency of it, thus only 9% of land is arable coupled with poor management practice and secondly, the loss of most of the arable land during the external aggression from the Boer Trekkers.
As regards the country's geographical location within the Republic of South Africa where "when the Republic of South Africa sneezes Lesotho catches the cold". Although the relationship with South Africa has largely been fruitful, this however remains short term and not strategic in nature. An example of this includes tens of thousands of Basotho mineworkers and industrial employees who went there for work received high income that resulted in high remittances and customs revenues back home. This has since began to reverse with major retrenchments of Basotho miners from South Africa.
Other factors that have exacerbated the situation of poverty include, HIV/AIDS which is overtaken other causes of death. It is estimated that 31% of Basotho are infected with this virus. The fact that, most of the infected are between the ages of 15-49, poses a major threat to the productivity of the country. The level of dependency has dramatically risen and the number of orphans is estimated at 10% of the population of the youth in the country.
Organisation of the Report
This report is arranged in Seven Chapters with Conclusions and Recommendations. Chapter One is dedicated to providing a brief introduction on the origins of the PRSP approach, and a short response to why Lesotho bought into the approach. It also covers description of Lesotho, its location, topography, population growth rate and distribution. It also gives brief political and economic history and attempts to identify origins of poverty by searching through the different regimes starting from a brief analysis of the pre-colonial era, the colonial period through to the period of independent Lesotho.
It further discusses changing scenarios in South Africa, particularly the demise of the apartheid regime and subsequent developments there with their impact on Lesotho. Those were found to have shaken Lesotho such that it had to embark on a paradigm shift in terms of managing its economy.
Chapter Two deals with the planning for consultations that include the establishment of institutional structures to undertake the PRSP process forward. In establishing such institutions, Government based itself on principles that underpin the PRSP process, which include: participation, inclusiveness, broad based, results oriented, partnership, country driven and ownership. The report highlights the crucial support from her partners in development, namely the UNDP, DFID and DCI. Seven of such institutional structures were created to facilitate the making of the country's PRSP. Those included:
Technical Working Group (TWG), the PRSP Secretariat, Poverty Monitoring Sub-Group, Consultation Sub-Group, Eleven Sector Working Groups, Thematic Groups and PRSP Core Group. Each of the groups' functions have been critically analysed.
Chapter Three is about the participation of Stakeholders in the Lesotho PRSP Process. It analyses the role of primary stakeholders who were the communities and the public at large and secondary stakeholders' who were government officials, civil society organisation, the private sector and, most importantly, parliamentarians and development partners whose active participation was key in the making of the PRSP in Lesotho. Thus, the strength of the Lesotho PRSP rested on the support and active participation of all the stakeholders and the Lesotho partners in Development.
In Chapter Four, the report analyses the drafting of the PRSP at the Mohale Lodge where the zero-zero draft was produced. This is the stage that saw the relations between stakeholders, making it possible for state and non-state actors to interact and share ideas and knowledge. The Mohale Experience was the first planning exercise that changed the way government does business.
One of critical factors that the Chapter analyses, is the Consultants and the 'Consultancy Mania' evidenced by their role throughout the PRSP making process where, it is demonstrated that, they were not properly utilised in the PRSP process.
Chapter Five deals with what worked in the process of making the PRSP and identifies participatory community consultations which clearly indicated Government's commitment to ensure that views and concerns of the Basotho on poverty issues were exposed and represented in the Strategy. The process also allowed for a common platform from which stakeholders' contributions were taken on board;
linkages between the stakeholders, especially those working within the same sectors, were established; participation of minorities was catered for and support from development partners was obtained.
Chapter Six records about 'what did work. This is presented as ' tensions and threats" that were experienced in the process. The report recognises that an exercise of that magnitude could not go without some disappointments, tensions and threats. These tensions and threats, ranged from the administrative and skills shortcomings of civil servants, the on-going mistrust between the civil service players and the private sector players; the dispute between the PRSP Secretariat and the NGO consortium that resulted in the LCN and government quickly intervening to redeem the situation;
the PRSP running concurrently with the National Vision; the merging of the PRSP Secretariats with that of the Vision under the leadership of the PRSP Director and then the de-merger Other issues were the erratic participation of representatives of various groups in the process and the poor participation of Parliamentarians.
There is no doubt this was a huge exercise whose overall outcome should help to built a platform for transforming the thinking and the way of doing business in Lesotho. Shortcomings aside, it could be argued that the Lesotho PRSP process was a success and has introduced new concepts both in the state and non-state sectors. The only danger that the PRSP poses is, the enormous expectations raised amongst the Basotho people. The question that will remain unanswered at least at this time is... "Will the Government and its Development Partners fulfil their promises?"
In this Report, we have attempted to give an historical genesis of poverty within the changing social, economic and political scenarios in Lesotho and in the region and, we have shown several and varied attempts to fight poverty by various regimes with support from the country's development partners. Our conclusion is that, while the process was obviously not at all perfect, major steps have been taken which demonstrate clearly a shift towards tackling the problems of poverty in Lesotho. The challenge that now faces the country is how to consolidate and institutionalise this process of consultations,
collaborations and genuine dialogue with stakeholders. Governments in the developing world are known for jumping on bandwagons like PRSPs just because they feel that, this is what the Western rich countries want to see before they can open their wallets. Our view is that, if Lesotho acts in this way, a big opportunity to change the lives of its citizens will be lost. Our hope is that, the traditional saying that goes 'Muso ha o tate' meaning government is never in a hurry will disappear with this approach. Accountability to Basotho should increase, and more transparency, effectiveness and efficiency
in the use of public resources will begin to be seen.
As it has been said over and over by all stakeholders, Lesotho's record in implementing programmes is very poor. The institutional response is very weak and so the advocates of PRSP must understand that, the country has never lacked good plans or even good planning. What it has lacked is good implementation. The government systems must be radically changed to become responsive to demand driven initiatives. Such change can only be initiated from the top where leadership must be from the front. For this to happen, the authorities should encourage innovation and creativity and allow people to take risks while trying new packages for change.
It is only when people are free to choose answers to difficult issues that effective solutions can be found.
Many Basotho to whom we talked, saw the PRSP as a hope for a new beginning. All Basotho should treat procrastination with contempt, and people in authority who make decisions should make them in line with government's policies even if the decisions may sometimes be wrong. It should be noted that a bad decision is better than none.
For the readers of this report, we apologise if there are parts where we may have exaggerated a situation. Our main purpose is to ensure that the Lesotho story of the PRSP is not lost. If some of our interpretation is not correct, we request all, to understand that this was not the intention. The report simply hopes that the lessons learned in this process will become living memories in the lives of the Basotho so that mistakes of YESTERDAY shall not be repeated TOMORROW!
The volume of information that this report generated was too overwhelming for us to do justice in this section. In most cases some of the recommendations are subsumed in the specific chapters. In view of the fact that the making of a PRSP will be revisited after every three years of implementation, what appears here is what we consider generic and important to be highlighted. These are:
That the link between communities and the Central Government through active communication between the PRSP Secretariat and District offices, (as was the case during the consultations), is reconnected and kept alive. Regular dialogue/discussions and feedbacks on on-going activities relating to poverty reduction for communities will ensure, less scepticism when officials visit communities for future national exercises such as the PRSP.
The PRSP process has revealed the degree of weakness in the private sector's ability to come together and engage effectively with government on national issues. Since they must, of necessity, stay on the bandwagon, the private sector must be encouraged and supported to organise themselves so that they continue to provide the much needed input to policy making processes in Lesotho. Without them playing an active role, the economy may not grow fast enough to reduce poverty in Lesotho.
There is the need to have national debates about the broad policy direction/s that government may want to pursue, either to address general issues pertaining to the economic and social dimensions of poverty which would allow for a holistic approach to the development of PRSP, or specific issues pertaining to specific strategies etc. There is, therefore, a need for continuous, open and robust discussion by all stakeholders, before and during development of any national exercises such as the PRSP,
or after each phase of implementation. What we understand now is that Lesotho has embarked on a long but dynamic process of developing her economy for the better.
Whilst we acknowledge that the multi-stakeholder institutional structures developed for the PRSP process were far from being perfect, they will need to be strengthened so that they continue to collaborate, particularly during the implementation stage. They can play crucial roles in facilitating the PRS implementation, its monitoring and evaluation. There is a need, therefore, to devise some formal and joint mechanism to institutionalise active participation of key stakeholders to ensure and deepen ownership of the PRSP processes now and in the future.
In future, clear reporting and accountability mechanisms should be put in place within the Secretariat and all the Working Groups, which would also allow for constant briefing and updating measures to all stakeholders, and to also ensure that timeframes are adhered to in making such policy documents.
Consideration should be made to have equitable and proportional representation of all stakeholders in working groups to allow for parity in the presentation of views, influencing decisions and to ensure equitable ownership of the process.
The process should not be taken as an isolated process but as a national goal and tool to continue multiple stakeholder participation in national issues. Mechanisms should be set up to initiate a genuine dialogue platform between all stakeholders with clear action plans regarding the planning and implementation of the poverty reduction strategies. There should therefore be clear action plans with implementation strategies and monitoring and evaluation tools of the programme.
The challenge for Lesotho is whether this participatory turn is going to shift from the traditionally top down approach to a more participatory form of decision-making and policy planning.
A national think-tank, which will involve all stakeholders, should be established. This group will be assigned to discuss national issues relating to the PRS before and after implementation. Stakeholders should take such exercises more seriously and assign properly qualified people with the necessary specialised skills and expertise such that they spend minimum time on the process. Chiefs and Parliamentarians should work together and collaborate on mobilising their constituencies to debate national issues especially during the PRS implementation period.
Use should be made of modern technology to access and transfer information promptly between all stakeholders. The number and frequency of physical meetings will be reduced and savings on stationary, time and other resources will be made. Using this mode of communication will facilitate sharing of relevant information between stakeholders frequently and efficiently at all times. For example there is abundant relevant information on PRSP on the Internet, which accessed, would invariably cut down on travelling time to visit other countries by officials for experience and guidance.
Lesotho has been over researched and the public is getting weary of not participating in the implementation of their reported concerns. The 'Voice of the People " document should, therefore, be further edited and developed to capture more information that can be used as a guide for other similar exercises. It should also be translated into Sesotho and distributed to communities. Indeed, some of the views and expectations of the communities will remain valid for some years to come. Only incremental information may be required in the future.