The media in Swaziland are premature in hailing the meeting between the Swazi Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a substantial move towards solving the kingdom’s financial crisis.
Swazi state radio SBIS was quick to call the meeting a huge success and other media in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, were quick to follow. This is a pity because when it comes to news coverage SBIS is a propaganda outfit for the king and his government and cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, followed the SBIS line. It reports today (6 October 2010) that Swaziland ‘appears to have finally won the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank’.
It reports, the IMF and the World Bank gave a ‘“thumbs-up”’ to the country’s fiscal adjustment programme’.
But this is a strange interpretation of what actually happened. The IMF and World Bank said that Swaziland needed a proper plan to improve government spending and finance management. It added it would help Swaziland to draw up such a plan.
And that was it. This is what the IMF has been telling Swaziland for years. Its economy is in a mess because of bad management by the government. It is still in a mess, the IMF says, and more work needs to be done.
That means that the IMF still wants the government to cut public spending and sack civil servants.
The Swazi Government is trying to get a loan of about E525 million (75 million US dollars) from the African Development Bank (ADB). In August 2010, the ADB said Swaziland needed the support of the IMF and World Bank. That support was not forthcoming.
The IMF and World Bank have not given that support this week, so nothing has changed.
Now there is a real likelihood that the government does not have money to pay its salary bill this month (October 2010). Finance Minister Sithole had assured civil servants the money would be there, but earlier this week the European Union said it would not bail out the government and now the IMF and World Bank have not come up with the necessary letters of support to get the ADB loan.
Prime Minister Dlamini and Finance Minister Sithole should come clean: they have failed to get the money.