THE implementation of the Lesotho Standards Institution (LSI) is set to be further delayed as the Ministry of Trade and Industry has not been allocated any funds for its operationalisation in the proposed 2021/22 financial year budget.
Following the LSI's launch by the Trade ministry last August, it was expected that the LSI would be allocated funds in the 2021/22 budget so that it would begin its work.
The LSI was set up to develop and publish the national standards, testing and certification of various local products as well as to conduct trainings on standards related matters.
The lack of a functional standards body is one of the biggest technical barriers deterring local producers from entering into export markets as well as the local formal markets.
Trade ministry principal secretary (PS), Maile Masoebe told the Lesotho Times that the LSI has not been allocated any funds in the ongoing budget process.
"We submitted a budget proposal for the LSI but it was turned down by Ministry of Finance," Mr Masoebe said.
He said they were told the LSI would not be allocated funds due to the government's prevailing financial constraints, after proposed allocations were directed towards the Ha-Belo and Ha-Tikoe phase three industrial infrastructure projects under the same ministry.
The acting LSI chief executive officer (CEO), Molebatsi Rabolinyane said it will not be easy to provide a full scope of LSI without an operating budget.
"This means that the LSI will continue to rely on the budget allocated to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. This this will negatively affect several small and medium enterprises that require technical support," Mr Rabolinyane said.
He said operating without salaries and a marketing strategy will remain a huge challenge since the institution must have utmost autonomy in line with international best practices.
Mr Rabolinyane said it was important for all stakeholders to get involved and be part of LSI community as it will be difficult to cover the full scope of its mandate under the current budgetary constraints.
The institution is currently being run by four staffers who were assigned by the Trade ministry.
Mr Rabolinyane said they have completed the design and budget for the quality infrastructure building and are due to procure a construction contractor. The building will be constructed at Ha-Tikoe in Maseru.
Once operational, one of the major tasks awaiting the LSI is the development of water standards to enable local producers to enter the formal market as well as the export market. Mr Rabolinyane said some of the equipment for water testing has already been acquired and is now awaiting the implementation of the national standards.
He encouraged producers to use the draft water standards in the meantime.
"The draft standards on bottled water have already been prepared pending their publication. However, the design logos and branding marks are still being worked on," Mr Rabolinyane said.
Thabo Qhesi, the chief executive officer for the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) said it was worrying for the government to fail to recognise the role of the LSI in the country's economic development.
He said the Lesotho's competitiveness hinges on the existence of a function standards body.
"There is no way we can enhance our competitiveness as a nation without a functional standards body. Now our producers must rely on testing and certification by the South African Bureau of Standards, which comes at a high business cost," Mr Qhesi said.