THE HONOURABLE MOPSHATLA
MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
OF THE KINGDOM OF LESOTHO
TWENTY-FIFTH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR AN OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HABITAT AGENDA (ISTANBUL + 5)
8th JUNE, 2001 NEW YORK
Mr. President Honorable Ministers Distinguished Delegates Ladies and Gentlemen,
I join the speakers before me, who have congratulated you, Mr. President, on your election to the stewardship of this special session, a job Mr. President, that you are doing most enviably. It is indeed a great honor and privilege for me and my delegation to address this special session on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda in Lesotho, five years after the City Summit.
In our quest to improve the quality of life in the cities, towns and villages of our country, and within the context of the commitments at Istanbul, which include shelter, social development, eradication of poverty, environmental ' management, economic development, governance and international co-operation, we are grateful to share our efforts with this distinguished gathering.
With regard to shelter, Mr. President, we have established a broad-based National Habitat Committee to draw up a National Shelter Policy. This policy, which seeks to create an enabling framework for effective and sustainable shelter delivery, has already received initial endorsement by Cabinet.
In like manner, a broad-based Commission was set up to review the National Land Policy with a view to aligning it with the principles and commitments of the Habitat agenda.
In the operational area, the government has resuscitated the low cost housing schemes, which had since been abandoned as a housing solution. The government is also encouraging the private sector to participate in housing delivery through creating a conducive investment climate. Government is further negotiating with commercial banks to provide mortgage finance, an aspect which was hitherto a preserve of a now privatized government bank.
The Government is also working on a policy to relinquish responsibility for the direct housing of civil servants and to encourage home ownership amongst its employees. Furthermore, Mr. President, the Law Reform Commission and the Land Policy Review Commission have proposed that all laws prohibiting women from accessing land, shelter and credit be repealed.
Mr. President, Excellencies and distinguished Delegates, one of the key interventions in the area of social development is the introduction of Free Primary Education. Today, no child may miss primary education because their parents are poor. Every child who attends school also gets a free meal at school. The school feeding scheme provides the much need income at the local level as the local communities are responsible for the feeding programme. The Free Primary Education is open to all age groups. Consequently, school enrolments have swollen, and you find children and parents learning together in a tent all over the country, where there is shortage of facilities.
Suffice to mention, Mr. President, that in the area of poverty eradication, the government has, while in the course of developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy, established the Lesotho Fund for Community Development, financed through royalties earned from the sale of water to the Republic of South Africa. The Fund is used to finance community based development projects, especially in the rural areas. The rural communities are provided with training to empower them to plan and execute their development projects.
In the area of environmental management, Parliament has recently passed a National Environmental Bill for purposes of incorporating environmental considerations in development activities.
Another area of great significance to the Habitat Agenda is good governance. My government has embarked on a Public Sector Improvement Reform Program which, amongst other things, aims at improving delivery of services, decentralization and the establishment of democratic local government as well as improvements in the administration of justice.
Parliament enacted the Local Government Act in 1997. While it is difficult at the moment to hold Local Government Elections, a process is in place to establish Transitional Urban Government Structures to uphold principles of public participation in the administration of public affairs. These transitional local government authorities are directly elected through processes that are managed at the community level rather than through conventional election processes.
Another major milestone in the activities of government is in the restructuring of the economy through the privatization of state-owned enterprises such as utility corporations. This process has released resources for supporting social programs as government no longer subsidize these enteprises. The privatization program has attracted major capital injections in the economy as well as management expertise. It is hoped this policy will result in stimulation of economic growth, efficiency and job creation. The government has further created facilities to enable local participation in the privatized state enterprises.
Last but not least, Mr. President, in April this year, the President of South Africa, Mr. Mbeki, signed a landmark agreement with the Prime Minster of Lesotho on co-operation between the two countries. The key objective of this agreement, Mr. President, is to lift Lesotho out of the category of the Least Developed Countries in five years. This, Mr. President, is a mammoth task for the two countries and their peoples. Five years is not a long time, but our people are ready for the challenge. Human Settlements shall play a critical role in the pursuit of this goal and in manifesting its achievements.
It is our sincere hope and desire that all our development partners, including the International Donor Community, shall engage together with us in this ambitious endeavor.
I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION!