WASHINGTON, October 9, 2010 ― The Government of Lesotho and the World Bank signed a US$15 million Financing Agreement to complete construction of two bridges over the Senqu and Senqunyane Rivers, as well as maintenance of 64 kilometers of roads (from Nyenye to Makhoroana and Teyateyaneng to Mapoteng Junction) that link remote, rural communities and help boost economic development in the country’s northern highland region.
“The global financial crisis has adversely impacted our economy and is constraining our needed capital expenditure program,” said the Hon. Dr. Timothy Thahane, Lesotho’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning, at the signing ceremony held during the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. “We appreciate the financing and technical support we have received from the World Bank and Lesotho’s development partners for this strategic project.”
The Integrated Transport Project’s development objectives are noteworthy, including creation of 6,000 days of employment over the construction period. The completion of bridge construction will reduce traveling distances between the regional centers of Qacha’s Nek and Maseru by 140 kilometers, benefiting about 20,000 people living in the area. Periodic maintenance, including resealing and repairs, will benefit 200,000 people living in Berea and Leribe districts, reducing travel time by 20 percent as well as wear and tear of the vehicle fleet. Moreover, the project will increase employment opportunities in the highlands, reduce costs for transporting people and goods, and provide easier access to economic and social services in hitherto inaccessible areas.
“At a time of economic downturn, investing in infrastructure is a proven way of priming the engine of growth and improving the welfare of the Basotho people,” said Ruth Kagia, World Bank Country Director for Lesotho, at the signing ceremony.
Landlocked, the Kingdom of Lesotho – known as Africa’s Kingdom in the Sky for the rugged beauty of its highlands – has been adversely affected by the financial crisis. The successful textile and garment industry, a major source of export revenues, has slumped due largely to a precipitous drop in demand from the United States. Revenues from the Southern African Customs Union are projected to decline to 14.2 percent of GDP in 2010/11, down from a high of 37.1 percent of GDP in 2008/2009. Given these multiple pressures, the Government of Lesotho considers completion of ongoing infrastructure projects to be a strategic national priority, vital for securing economic growth as the economy rebounds.
“The Integrated Transport Project was designed to support the Government of Lesotho’s efforts to improve access to basic services, markets, and employment opportunities by rural and urban populations,” said Fang Xu, a World Bank Economist and Project Leader. “We look forward to speedy implementation of this important project.”