Youth demands establishment a women and youth funds
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By Lerema Pheea
Bacha Shutdown has petitioned Finance Minister Thabo Sophonea in demanding the establishment of a youth and women fund and lifting of the valued added tax on telecommunications costs ahead of this week’s Friday, February 25th budgetary estimates submission to parliament.
Bacha Shutdown is a youth pressure group demanding the reduction of unemployment of youth and their empowerment in Lesotho.
The youth, in their petition, are exhorting Sophonea to consider establishing youth and women fund, lifting the value-added tax on telecommunication, and introducing cash grant paid to unemployed Basotho in the budgetary estimates for the financial year 2022/2023.
The fund, the youths said must be funded through revenue collected from sin taxes imposed on both alcohol and tobacco sales.
In their petition, the youth argued they are faced with poverty that is owing to factors beyond their individual, which is also compounded by serious health problems and environmental shocks that the youth and women face.
The youths said high unemployment they are faced with is one of the highest contributors towards ever-increasing poverty among the youth and women.
“The facts are that half of the working-age population in Lesotho is not participating in the labor market, does not have a job nor is looking for one, with young people being disproportionally affected by joblessness.
“Employment statistics have recently worsened in our country due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impacts.
“The senseless lockdowns that were imposed by the government from March 2020 come to mind,” reads part of the youths’ petition.
The petition further said the programs which the government has previously put in place to support youth start-ups have not been as effective as they should and need to be overhauled in favor of an actual youth empowerment program.
The youth further state in their petition that it has come to their understanding that the government is planning to increase sin tax.
The petitioner said they understand the sin tax will see alcohol and tobacco levies increased by 15 and 30 percent respectively.
This sin tax increases, the youths said they believe are some positive revenue collection policies that would increase collection in Lesotho amid failures in jurisdictions like Botswana.
“Lesotho with 20 percent of daily adult smokers, has the second-highest tobacco consumption in Africa; similarly high rates in alcohol are prevalent in the country, especially among young people.
“Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro knows how he was always pressurized by young people on social media to allow the sale of alcohol during the lockdown,” reads the youth’s petition.
The youth proposed that government should establish a Women and Youth Fund that will get funding from the proposed alcohol and tobacco levies and distribute it to real empowerment initiatives.
“Getting 20 percent (approximately M57 million) of the revenue collected from alcohol and tobacco levies each year, the Fund will stimulate the establishment and growth of youth and women- businesses, promote digital skills, grow the economy, and foster job creation.
“The Fund should not be administered by politicians but by experienced Basotho women and young people to ensure transparency and accountability,” reads the youths’ petition.
The youth urged Sophonea to immediately lift VAT on telecommunications in order to lower data costs and increased access to the internet for all people, especially the youth.
“The number of jobs supported by internet-related activities can raise the total number of jobs in the country.
“However, the VAT on telecommunications limits young people’s participation in the internet economy, the youth said in their petition.
The youth also demanded that Finance Minister should introduce urgently a monthly cash grant paid to Basotho who are struggling to make ends meet.
The petitioner proposed that such grants eligibility be through unemployed and be distributed to persons aged 18 to 59.
This, the youths said in their petition shall ensure that each Loti spent in transfers goes directly to the poor.
Also, linking the eligibility to employment status, the youth said will ensure that the support is only temporary and falls away when beneficiaries graduate out of unemployment.
This, the youths said will ensure that each Loti spent in transfers goes directly to the poor.
Also, linking the eligibility to employment status, the petitioners said will ensure that the support is only temporary and falls away when beneficiaries graduate out of unemployment.