The Swaziland economy is in freefall and there are fears that from next month (October 2010) the Swazi government won’t be able to pay salaries to people on its payroll, including civil servants, teachers and medical workers.
Guests at a gathering organised to discuss the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) laughed out loud when Sithole told them, ‘You know, graded tax that’s about E3 million costs us about E3 million to collect.’
And who can blame them? Sithole has resided over the collapse of the Swazi economy for 10 years and as I reported in March 2009, he isn’t even able to do simple arithmetic when it comes to presenting reports.
As well as showing his incompetence in collecting revenues, Sithole revealed to the same meeting that his plea for government departments to reduce their budgets by 14 percent had fallen on deaf ears.
On average cuts are only 8 percent. And some ministries ‘just refused’ to make cuts, he said.
Despite this, Sithole continues to whistle in the dark about the future prospects of the Swazi economy. On Wednesday (15 September 2010) I reported his claim that the European Union (EU) was willing to help him meet the civil servants’ salaries bill next month – a claim not substantiated by the EU and opposed by progressives who want an improvement in human rights in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Swaziland’s economy is in freefall because in the past it over-relied on income from SACU. This was cut from E6 billion to E1.9 billion (250 million US dollars) this year and the Swazi government has struggled to make ends meet. SACU receipts accounted for 66 percent of the national budget last year, from 71 percent in the previous year.
Sithole revealed that the kingdom’s wages and salaries bill was so huge that all ‘non-SACU’ receipts were not enough to cover it.
Last month (August 2010), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund refused to support Swaziland’s application for a loan from the African Development Bank because the government had not made attempts to control its spending.