The only independent newspaper in the kingdom, the Times of Swaziland, has launched a fierce attack on the Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole on the day he is set to announce the national budget.
The newspaper accuses the minister of making ‘empty promises’ in the past. ‘Sithole has been making poverty alleviation promises for a decade now but the poverty levels are far from declining’.
Times managing editor, Martin Dlamini writes today (27 February 2009) that even though 69 percent of the one million people in Swaziland live in abject poverty, international observers say that Swaziland is not a poor country. This is because of the way the kingdom’s wealth is distributed.
On specific issues, Dlamini notes
HIV/AIDS has once again gained strength over the Swazi people. Infection rate has jumped back to 42 percent. T his is not entirely government’s fault but it can certainly take a large share of the blame for failing strategies.
Last year Sithole said government was committed allocating 15 percent of the national budget towards the health sector. He disappointed us with a 10.6 percent allocation.
Last year he observed that the civil service wage bill stood at 53.6 percent of the government expenditure which he described as significantly compared to the internationally recommended 35 percent.
He said government had decided to take steps to reduce the size of the civil service with E153 million set aside for a voluntary retirement scheme. We have seen no voluntary retirements. Instead, government has increased the size of the civil service with an additional ministry.
Sithole estimated last year that of the over 10 000 school leavers that join the labour market every year, only 2 000 are absorbed into the formal market. For the 8 000 others, he promised that the Ministry of Enterprise and Employment would shortly be presenting the Employment Bill, which would help set up an unemployment insurance fund
He said government would also give more support to the Swazi entrepreneurs through strategic interventions in creating business opportunities by giving first preference to Swazis and hoped that the passing of the Competition Bill 2007 would create an environment which would raise the standards and quality of locally produced goods and materials to compete at international level.
Where are we with all these? The unemployment in this country was last reported to be at 28 percent when in actual fact it seems more at 45 percent now?
Government remains guilty of failing to provide free education as per the requirements of the constitution. Last year Sithole threatened to introduce an education levy to fund this exercise. Brace yourselves. He may announce this new levy today.
Dlamini concludes, ‘Listen with great concentration to the budget speech today on these very important issues and don’t allow yourself to be fooled by a repetition of old promises.’
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