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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

IMF CALLS FOR SACRIFICE FROM KING

The IMF wants King Mswati III to make a ‘sacrifice’ in his own spending to help save the economy of Swaziland.

And Joannes Mongardini, leader of the IMF Mission to Swaziland that has just finished a two-week visit to the kingdom, said there was no need for public service wage cuts. The money could be saved from cutting spending on the army, the police and politicians’ allowances.

The reality, said Mongardini, was that the old and sick were suffering most from the financial crisis in Swaziland.

His comments came as the IMF reported that the economic meltdown in the kingdom had reached a ‘critical’ stage.

Joannes Mongardini was speaking on the BBC World Service Focus on Africa programme today (16 November 2011). The programme was broadcast live in Swaziland on the state-controlled SBIS radio station. The last time the BBC broadcast material on Focus on Africa that was critical of King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, the programme was banned in Swaziland.

Mongardini told the BBC that the most worrying part of the financial crisis was the impact on the most vulnerable members of society – orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and the elderly. He said the Swazi Government owed OVCs US$10 million.

Asked by the BBC whether the amount of the Swaziland budget that went to King Mswati should be reduced, Mongardini said, ‘We would expect all Swazis to make a sacrifice.’

Mongardini also said he didn’t believe there needed to be public service wage cuts. He said it would be possible to meet the IMF’s target of 5 percent cuts by reducing the cost of Swaziland’s army, police forces and the ‘very generous’ allowances that were paid to politicians.

He said the loan announced by the Swazi Government yesterday that would guarantee that public servants would be paid this month was not a long-term solution. It didn’t solve the underlying problem in Swaziland which was that the government had the largest public sector wage bill in sub-Saharan Africa.

Earlier, in a media statement the IMF said the fiscal crisis in Swaziland has reached a critical stage. the Swazi Government no longer was collecting enough revenue to cover ‘essential government expenditures, including the wage bill’.

It went on, ‘More importantly, key social programs, like the fight against HIV/AIDS, free primary education, the support for orphaned and vulnerable children, and elderly grants, are being negatively affected.’

It said the Swazi Government had unpaid bills of E 1.5 billion (5.3 percent of gross domestic product—GDP).

This was reducing private sector activity, with various enterprises dependent on government contracts having to lay off workers or shutting down, the IMF said.

The IMF said Swaziland would ‘continue to face severe liquidity constraints over the coming months’.

It called on the Swaziland Government to protect education, health, and pro-poor spending from further cuts.

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