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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

SWAZI MINISTER AND EU ‘BAIL-OUT’

Swaziland Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole has claimed the European Union is ready to donate money so that the government can carry on paying its army of civil servants.


There are fears that the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is so broke it won’t be able to pay civil servants salaries next month (October 2010).


Sithole claims that everything is in hand and there’s no need to worry because he has lined up support from international donor agencies, including the European Union.


I doubt that he’s telling the truth. Only last month (August 2010) the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank refused to support Swaziland’s bid for a loan from the African Development Bank because the Swazi Government was misusing funds to keep an unnecessary large number of people in jobs as civil servants.


It is partly because Sithole and the rest of the government refuse to cut jobs that the economy is in freefall. It is also badly affected by reductions in income from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).


Sithole made his claim on state-controlled radio, SBIS, and denied reports that salaries would not be paid.


According to the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, he said, ‘We have already begun looking for money from international organisations.’


Sithole named the European Union as one organisation that had offered Swaziland support, including loans of money.


I’d be very surprised if the European Union is willing to lend money to pay the civil servants. As Swaziland moves ever closer to financial ruin there will be a number of calls on international aid and charity. Top of the list will be the 300,000 or so people who regularly need food aid, as well as those who will need medical help as Swaziland’s hospitals collapse. The salaries of civil servants will be low on the list of priorities of overseas’ aid organisations.


Sithole has been wrong many times in the past and I doubt if we can trust what he says now. But, time will tell, and we only have a few weeks to go to see if the civil servants get their salary cheques.

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