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Thursday, 24 May 2012

KING’S TRIP TO LONDON ‘COST US$794,500’


The King of Swaziland’s trip to London for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee cost the Swazi people at least US$794,500.

King Mswati III reportedly took 30 people with him and stayed at the world-renowned Savoy Hotel.

The extravagant spending comes just as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) criticised Swaziland for diverting money that should have been used on education and health to other spending. 

As a result of this spending the IMF withdrew from Swaziland its team that was advising the government on economic recovery. Now, the kingdom will find it impossible to get the loans it needs from the World Bank and the African Development Bank to help rescue the economy.

The cost of King Mswati’s trip is a state secret, but it has been possible to piece together some of the spending.

To fly to London the King had to hire a private plane, despite having received a jet as a gift for his birthday last month. That plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD-87, which cost an estimated US$17 million secondhand, is too small to fly from Swaziland to the UK without stopping at least once on the way for refuelling.

So, King Mswati flew in a Bombardier. When he went to the UK last year to attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton he went in a similar jet. That time the cost of plane hire was reported to be between US$700,000 (E4.7 million) and US$900,000. We can assume it cost more or less the same this time too.

The King, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, took an entourage of 30 people with him to the Diamond Jubilee. He stayed at the US$630-per-night Savoy Hotel. Assuming all his party stayed in the same hotel, he ran up a bill of US$18,900 per night. Multiply that by a five-day stay and the total hotel room bill was US$94,500.

We can say with some confidence that the combined bill for the flight and the hotel came to at least US$794,500. There would also have been considerable incidental expenses associated with the trip, but it is difficult to cost these.

In November 2011, Joannes Mongardini, head of the IMF team in Swaziland, was asked by the BBC whether he thought the King and the Royal family ought to make financial sacrifices to help Swaziland out of its economic mess. He responded diplomatically, ‘We would expect all Swazis to make a sacrifice.’

In the interview Mongardini pointed out that the old and sick were suffering most from the financial crisis in Swaziland.

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