Lesotho has been simultaneously hit by the pandemic, declining transfers from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and the impact of the war in Ukraine. The pandemic exacerbated the impact of sluggish regional performance, climate shocks, and longstanding structural issues such as regulation, governance, political stability, financial inclusion, and diversification. Public expenditure has continued to increase, such that the decline in external transfers precipitated significant financing pressures and growing domestic arrears. With limited inflows to the private sector, the resulting public sector-driven external imbalances have continued to put pressure on international reserves needed to maintain the exchange rate peg.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe impact on Lesotho’s economy. Supply chains for major industries have been disrupted and a national shutdown to contain the virus curtailed economic activity with adverse social impacts. The economy is expected to be further hit by declining external demand for textiles and diamonds, shrinking remittances, and delays to major construction projects. The authorities are taking measures to contain the virus and are implementing plans to mitigate its health and economic consequences. The economic shock, as well as the additional required spending, have generated urgent balance-of-payments (BOP) needs. Lesotho does not have an arrangement with the Fund.
This 2019 Article IV Consultation highlights that while international reserves are at adequate levels and banks remain well-capitalized in the Republic of Lesotho, domestic arrears are beginning to impact the broader economy, exacerbating growth challenges posed by structural impediments. The recently passed FY2019/20 budget envisages an ambitious consolidation that could begin to lay the groundwork for a transition to private-sector driven growth. Construction related to the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project will support medium-term growth, and the diamond and textile industries have positive prospects. Fiscal adjustment is needed to address government arrears, buttress debt sustainability, and safeguard the link to the rand. Generating strong and inclusive growth will require improved public service delivery and the private sector to become the primary engine of job creation. Better targeting of the government’s resources, Public Financial Management reforms, and reorienting both expenditures and the role of government in the economy will be critical to achieve these goals.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that high levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality persist in Lesotho despite its faster growth compared with regional peers over the last decade. GDP growth is expected to be about 3 percent in FY2017/18, below the average of 4.1 percent for the past decade, and driven by mining and agriculture. Over the next three years, GDP growth is expected to be led by mining and construction related to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II. A steep decline in Southern African Customs Union transfers, a major source of government revenue, will result in a fiscal deficit that is likely to exceed 6 percent of GDP for the second year.
The 2015 Article IV Consultation discusses key issues related to the economic growth of Lesotho. Although Lesotho achieved solid economic growth with only moderate inflation in the several years, this growth has failed to reduce poverty in the country. Lesotho's major chunk of revenue comes from South African Customs Union to finance large government expenditures, but this revenue will fall sharply in fiscal year 2016/17. Despite having substantial international reserves and fiscal buffers, a major fiscal adjustment over the next two to three years will be needed to maintain macroeconomic stability. The private sector needs to be the engine for job creation to strengthen inclusiveness.
Sustainable public debt has gained renewed attention as countries implement fiscal consolidation measures in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Sound public debt policies and debt management practices require robust legal underpinnings. Complex legal issues however arise in the design of the legal framework, and tradeoffs are required in many instances. This paper analyzes key features of modern public debt management legal frameworks, drawing from examples in advanced, emerging, and frontier markets. It aims to provide guidance for countries that seek to review and strengthen their public debt management legal frameworks.
This 2014 Article IV Consultation highlights that since 2010, the Lesotho’s economy has performed well with the growth of real GDP averaging over 5 percent a year and inflation held to single-digit levels. International reserves have recovered to close to 5 months of import coverage after dipping to 3½ months of imports in 2012 in the wake of the balance of payments and fiscal crisis. The economic outlook for Lesotho is positive with strong economic growth and low inflation. Economic activity is expected to be supported by large public investment projects, including the second phase of Lesotho Highland Water Project.
Modern tax administrations seek to optimize tax collections while minimizing administration costs and taxpayer compliance costs. Experience shows that voluntary compliance is best achieved through a system of self-assessment. Many tax administrations have introduced self-assessment principles in the income tax law but the legal authority is not being consistently applied. They continue to rely heavily on “desk” auditing a majority of tax returns, while risk management practices remain largely underdeveloped and/or underutilized. There is also plenty of opportunity in many countries to enhance the design and delivery of client-focused taxpayer service programs, and better engage with the private sector and other stakeholders.
The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program extended to Lesotho after a sharp fall in revenues remained broadly on track. Lesotho maintained positive growth supported by expansion of mining and construction. Fiscal consolidation efforts have helped to strengthen international reserves, despite weak diamond prices. Executive Directors welcomed the government’s continued efforts to improve the business climate and promote private sector development. They also suggested the need to maintain fiscal consolidation efforts, while safeguarding priority social and growth-promoting capital spending.