. . . expert urges utility firms to consider other ways

‘Fares, water tariff increases badly timed’


MASERU – A local business consultant has urged key utility companies to consider other possible options before overloading already cash-squeezed workers with increases on basic necessities. Taxi fares, electricity and water tariffs increased significantly this week. Lesotho chartered accountant and business consultant Robert Likhang said in an interview with Public Eye this week that while utility companies like WASCO and LEC may be driven by tough operating conditions to increase prices, it comes at a wrong time when the economic climate is tough for everyone.

The increase, according to him, also means the cost of doing business in the country is going to be higher, meaning the level of unemployment in the country, currently at 27.25 percent according to statistic, will remain high. “These are things that we use on a daily basis and it affects almost everybody in this country and unfortunately they all come at a time when the economy is performing very poorly and we are likely to anticipate some serious negative impact,” Likhang said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday.

Under these conditions, Likhang warned companies such as the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) and the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) should consider restructuring in terms of staff hiring. He suggested that they should cut production costs through a reduction in staff members and rely on other ways of production.

“Also the financing of both institutions should be strengthened so that services can expand even to the furthest districts. As it stands we are obviously missing the tariffs, and as we speak people in Hlotse and Maputsoe are still struggling for these services. Cutting on organisational costs to a certain degree could be helpful,” Likhang added. The road to better living conditions in Lesotho has never been easy for many people. Parents spend more money and time on children’s education with the hope that they will grow on to become successful and enjoy a better life in future. When they finally complete school and secure a new job, that hope is revived, particularly if they come from a poor household.

It brings hope that the standard of living will finally improve in the family but the strength of such hope will be determined by the amount of money they will be earning. However the entire scenario of can now be seen as far-fetched in Lesotho with the recent increase in water and transport fares and electricity bills which have been increased by up to five percent altogether.

New taxi fares also became operational on Wednesday this week. Commuters now have to pay M7.50 for a taxi and M8.00 for a 4x1 taxi around a ten-kilometre radius. Before the increase, commuters paid M6.00 for a taxi and M6.50 for a 4x1 taxi. In a country where the minimum wage is just between M1 178 and M1 285, according to the statistics from the World Bank, the cost of living is likely to reach new heights in Lesotho going forward.

The situation is likely to deteriorate further for around 40 000 factory workers who earn just a little above the country’s minimum wage, let alone the battalions of youths who are not gainfully employed.In the midst of all that is going on at the moment, budgeting remains the best way out and Basotho should be ready for the tough battle ahead. Having this empowering knowledge could prove helpful after the battle to prevent the increases, particularly of transport fares failed and nothing is likely to change for the better.

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