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Friday, 1 April 2011

KING IS RICH, BUT NOT SWAZILAND

While Swaziland struggles to alleviate its fiscal crisis with foreign aid because of its World Bank classification as a lower middle-income country, the government has increased the budget for King Mswati III, Africa’s last remaining absolute monarch and one of the richest royals in the world, the IPS news agency reported.


This move came despite figures showing that while the number of people living on less than two dollars a day has dropped by six percent between 2001 and 2010, the welfare of the poorest people, which make up 30 percent of the population, has not improved.


Pat Muir, principal secretary at the Ministry of Education and Training, says, ‘the country’s World Bank classification makes it impossible for us to partner with international organisations that could assist us with some of our services’.


When the government sets out to raise foreign aid, donors always remind Mbabane that Swaziland is not regarded as a country poor enough to ‘deserve’ much of this kind of assistance, notes Muir.


Majozi Sithole, Swazi Finance Minister, decries the skewed distribution of wealth in the kingdom, which contributes to the kingdom being classified as a lower middle-income state. This status is based on an elite representing only 10 percent of the population but controlling 60 percent of the country’s wealth.


Swaziland’s lower middle-income status also presents a problem to civil society organisations as donors’ focus shifted to least developed countries.


According to Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, the director for the Coordinating Assembly for Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO), foreign aid to Swaziland started to dry up from the 1990s.


Since then, NGOs have been downscaling operations because donors are not interested in funding Swaziland because of its lower middle-income status,’ says Ndlangamandla.


What has further compounded the problem, states Khangezile Dlamini, the general secretary for Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC), is the system of governance that breeds corruption and does not allow transparency.


‘Donors tell us that government hosts the king’s birthday celebrations every year, yet it fails to provide for its poor people,’ said Dlamini. Despite the fiscal crisis, government still plans to host the king’s birthday celebrations on 19 April.


She said CSC had to discontinue a programme where the organisation was installing boreholes for poor communities in drought-prone areas. ‘Our donors told us that government should be responsible for providing these services to its people.’


To read the full report, click here.


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