Lesotho has yet to record a case of COVID-19 as of April 13, one of two countries to escape the virus since it reached the continent. The other being the island nation of Comoros.
But the government in Maseru led by Prime Minister Tom Thabane has rolled out a series of economic intervention measures to cushion the country from the impact of the pandemic.
In an address on Monday, April 13, Thabane disclosed that a budget had been allocated for a Disaster Relief Fund with another Relief Fund for the private sector.
Like other African countries have announced in recent times, Lesotho has formally opened talks with the World Bank and the European Union for assistance in this regard.
The measures touch on the public and private sectors and also addresses Basotho students within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and those outside the region. Banks have also been directed to revise some regulations whiles telecom companies
are to lower interest rates.
Major announcements include:
Disaster Relief Fund – M698 million
Relief Fund for private sector= M500 million
Agriculture support = M100 million
3-month grants for aged below qualifying age of 70, orphans, informal traders
Informal traders will not pay licence fees during lockdown and 2 months after
Tax compliant businesses to get payment deadline extension till end of September – deadline to be communicated later.
Simplified business taxation for non-essential services including transport will not be payable.
Banks directed to extend 3-month payment holiday for all affected individuals and companies.
Lending and mobile money interest rates to be lowered.
45,000 factory workers to be paid three-month subsidy of M 800 per month.
Announcements affecting international students:
International students (within, outside SADC) to receive additional payments of 3 months
International (outside SADC) students to be paid additional $300 dollars for 3 months = $900. They are advised to remain at their bases.
Students within the region will continue to receive allowances – will be assisted to return home if need be.
On the health front, Minister Nkaku Kabi confirmed that government was engaging the South African Health Department to arrange distribution of Anti-retrovirals, ARV’s and other medication for Basotho who are stranded due to lockdown next door.
Citizens in South Africa, the continent’s most impacted country, are advised to remain as best practice to limit spread of the virus.
The government urged those who want to return to liaise with high commission and consulates.