May 9, 2002

Assistance for economic recovery

Lesotho's economic recovery has been given a boost with the launch of several projects that aim to provide work and training for the Basotho. The projects are a result of a Joint Bilateral Commission of Cooperation (JBCC) programme between the tiny mountain kingdom and South Africa. South African Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma and her Lesotho counterpart, M.T. Thabane, signed the JBCC agreement on Wednesday, May 8.

Lesotho has been struggling to overcome the economic impact of the 1998 riots that destroyed the capital Maseru's commercial district, and plunged the economy into its first recession in 40 years. There has also been a loss of remittances from mine workers who had been retrenched from South African mines. It is estimated that half its population live in poverty. In a joint communiqué the two country's said: "The purpose of the agreement is to uplift Lesotho from its current status as a least developed country within a period of five years."

Among the projects launched were the Maloti/Drakensberg Trans-Frontier Conservation and Development area, a geo-chemical mapping project and a stone-cutting project. Also included in the programme was a road construction project involving the up-grading of the Mokhotlong/Sani Pass/Underberg road infrastructure and the establishment of a permanent border post. (IRIN)

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