The decision of the Swaziland Government to spend another E350 million (about US$50 million) on Sikhuphe International Airport puts it on a collision course with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Only weeks after accepting that the IMF would have a significant role to play in the saving of the Swazi economy, which is in crisis after years of mismanagement by the government, it has ignored one of the IMF’s key recommendation.
Recommendation No3 states, ‘The [Swaziland] Government would also suspend the capital projects that have not already been started to date and the purchase of goods and services. Government will further slow down the implementation of existing capital projects in line with available financing.’
Sikhuphe Airport, which is a vanity project of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is an ‘existing capital project’. The extra E350 million the government decided to give the project this year is over and above the E706 million budget it had previously agreed. As we all know the kingdom is broke so the Swazi Government can’t argue that the money has come from ‘available financing’.
What does Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister think he is up to? He and Majozie Sithole, the kingdom’s Finance Minister for the past decade, have for many years constantly ignored the IMF’s advice. The IMF stated in November 2010 that the present crisis could have been avoided if the Swaziland Government had spent money more wisely in the past. Even when the Sikhuphe Project was first announced the IMF said it was a bad use of money which could be better used on development projects.
Because of their criminal negligence of the Swazi economy, the kingdom is now on its knees. It’s only realistic chance of survival is to accept the help of the IMF. In October 2010 with a great fanfare Dlamini announced that a ‘deal’ had been done with the IMF. That wasn’t quite true, but the IMF said if certain conditions were met it would support Swaziland’s bid for a loan from the African Development Bank.
And within the blink of an eye, Dlamini and Sithole have ignored the latest IMF advice.
A team from the IMF comes to Swaziland at the end of January 2011 – Dlamini and Sithole had better have their excuses ready.