Government reports on Covid-19 Relief Fund progress

KHAHLISO KHATALA

MASERU – Only M15 million of the M50 million budgeted for Covid-19 relief has been disbursed to beneficiaries in the business sector, according to the Private Sector Covid Relief Fund office. Following the declaration of the Covid-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, the Lesotho government responded to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s outcry for controlling the virus from spreading by announcing nationwide lockdowns that, unfortunately, adversely affected the private sector.

To reduce this impact on the private sector, the government budgeted M50 million to fund this relief. Chaba Mokuku, Head of Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, explained in a media briefing on Monday this week that they have so far made two requests to the Ministry of Finance to pay money to selected recipients – M990 000 in July 2021 for 132 formal sector beneficiaries; and M1 777 500 in October 2021 for 33 formal and 3 003 informal sector business beneficiaries.

According to the office there were 319 applications amounting to M1 925 000 that have been received from the formal sector, but the business owners failed to provide their financial statements which are the key requirements. There were particular documents which were expected from business owners’ applications such as a tax clearance, traders’ licence and that such businesses should have been active for at least two years before the national lockdown.

This applied to the formal sector. For the informal sector they should have registered with the Ministry of Small Business, should have active numbers of Mpesa or Ecocash accounts registered with the names they used to claim. However, Mokuku said they encountered some challenges when processing the payments because some applicants failed to fulfil all the requirements needed. In addition, they are also still waiting for the balance of M34 million because to date the funds have not been received.

Considering the potential negative impact of Covid-19 on the private sector, the government of Lesotho responded to WHO’s outcry to control the spread of Coronavirus by announcing national lockdowns beginning April 2020. The government launched the Private Sector Covid Relief Fund, through the Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme within the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project to assist business owners in the formal and informal sectors who were badly affected.

Covid-19 Relief Fund was meant to mitigate the adverse effect of the national lockdown. The government launched the Private Sector Covid-19 Relief Fund through the Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Programme (LEAP) within the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project (PSCEDP).The fund has been allocated a total of M50 000 000.00 (M50 million) with initial M20 000 000.00 (M20 million) released to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

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