All profits made in textile sweatshop factories for Taiwan-owned companies can be taken out of the kingdom, a top Swaziland government minister has boasted.
Lutfo Dlamini, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, told Taiwan journalists that this made Swaziland a better place to set up factories than anywhere else in Africa.
And Taiwanese ambassador to Swaziland Peter Tsai told the reporters it didn’t matter that Swaziland missed out on getting foreign currency: it could afford it.
Lutfo Dlamini said in Swaziland, ‘we believe in this country. You invest your money. You make profits and you are able to take the profits away’.
Dlamini was quoted by the Taipei Times, which was reporting on a visit to Swaziland last month by journalists from Taiwan.
Tsai told the reporters a distinguishing feature of Swaziland in terms of investment ‘is that it allows full repatriation of profits and dividends of enterprises operating in the country’.
He went on, ‘Not many African countries adopt the measure, mostly because of limited foreign exchange reserves. However, this is not a case in Swaziland,’ adding that Swaziland has sufficient foreign exchange reserves to sustain a liberalized foreign exchange mechanism.
At present 25 Taiwanese factories operate in Swaziland, mostly textile and garment manufacturers, employing about 15,000 people, many at close to slave wages. There have been numerous strikes by workers trying to get decent wages, but the pay is so poor that many women workers have to resort to prostitution to stop from starving.
But wages in Swaziland are still too high, according to Mason Ma, director and vice president of Tex-Ray Industrial Co. He told reporters that recent increases pushed ‘wage levels higher than in some Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia’.
No one pointed out despite claims made by the ambassador, Swaziland’s foreign reserves are not high. Only last month (July 2010) the Central Bank of Swaziland reported foreign reserves had fallen 23 percent in the past year and would cover the cost of imports for only 3.5 months, far below the six months level recommended by the Southern Africa Development Community.