Can we believe a word Majozi Sithole, Swaziland’s Finance Minister, says?
First he tells us that there will be no money to pay the salaries of public servants in June and then he says it will be there – he’ll get the money by collecting fines from criminals and taxes.
News of Sithole’s confession that Swaziland was broke flashed around the world on Tuesday (10 May 2011). Swazi trade unions called on the government to resign and said there would be chaos and a strike if the salaries weren’t paid.
Then, like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, Sithole announces to the media that the money was there after all.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reports today (12 May 2011) that Sithole says he can collect E300 million a month in taxes and the rest will come from collecting fines and he hopes to get the Swaziland Central Bank to cough up some cash.
But, it seems like a bit of a wing and a prayer to me. By his own admission, the government salary bill is E323 million per month and ‘about E540 million is needed for the running of ministries’.
The Times reports him saying, ‘We get about E300 million per month from the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) from tax collections. We also get some funds from bonds and Treasury Bills.
‘However, all these funds are not enough to cater for all of government’s expenses, which is why we want understanding from all concerned in the event we are not able to pay on time.
‘About E323 million goes to salaries, about E540 million is needed for the running of ministries. We also have to pay the country’s external debt, which is also a priority followed by salaries for civil servants then the other debt.’
But, he assured the Times, civil servants would get paid.
But, can we believe him? There are a lot of things that can go wrong with his plan. The tax has to be collected, the Central Bank has to convince investors their money is safe with the Swaziland Government ... and a heck of a lot of drunk drivers have to be caught this weekend.
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