Swaziland’s King Mswati III’s royal budget has been increased to US$69.8 million in the current financial year, an international news agency has reported.
The Anadolu Agency quoted official figures from the “Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s estimates for the years from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2019” report. It said the royal budget was US$55.3 million in the last financial year, but this year it has been increased by US$13.9 million.
The budget also has an extra US$6.7 million allocation for the king’s private jet.
Details of King Mswati’s budget are not made public in the kingdom he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. King Mswati is regularly criticised outside of Swaziland for his lavish spending. At present 300,000 of his 1.3 million subjects need financial aid to stop from starving during the present drought that has hit southern Africa.
Anadolu reported that in addition to the US$69.8 million, the budget for construction of link roads to royal palaces has been increased by US$6.4 million. It was US$2 million in the last budget.
The royal houses budget was also increased by US$10 million to reach US$17 million, the agency reported.
Royal emolument and civil list, which includes salaries for the King, the Queen Mother and others in the royal service, were allocated US$25.8 million in the current financial year.
Since the budget was announced in February 2016, a further US$14 million will be spent on a 375-seater private jet for the King.
Meanwhile, Swaziland is suffering the worst drought in memory. As of the end of May 2016, UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – estimated 300,320 people in total in Swaziland were affected by drought of which 189,000 were children. It estimated that 165,000 children affected were by drought in the two most affected regions of Lubombo and Shiselweni.
A total of 200,897 people were food insecure, of which 90,404 were children. Of these, 8,460 children aged six to 59 months were affected by ‘severe and moderate acute malnutrition’.
Meanwhile, the Swazi Government has released only E22 million (US$1.5 million) of the E305 million earmarked for drought relief in this year’s national budget. The Swazi Observer newspaper reported on 11 July 2016 that the Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini announced this to the House of Assembly.
The newspaper reported he ‘failed to explain the reasons behind government’s failure to purchase and distribute food to the affected communities’.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a pro-democracy organization, strongly criticized the increase in the royal budget.
‘It's sad that the country's social expenditure always takes a back seat to satisfy the king’s greed. It’s a painful act that shows that if he had his own way he would keep all the country's money to himself,’ Anadolu quoted a spokesperson for SSN saying.
King Mswati also receives income from a variety of businesses in the kingdom. For example, he holds 25 percent of all mineral wealth ‘in trust for the Swazi nation’. In reality he uses this money to fund his lavish lifestyle, which includes 13 palaces, a private jet, fleets of Mercedes and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce.
In March 2016, it was revealed the King’s share of the just-reopened Lufafa Gold Mine at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region of Swaziland could be worth up to US$149 million.
Meanwhile, seven in ten of his subjects live in abject poverty with incomes of less than US$2 per day.
Anadolu reported the royal budget was not allowed to be debated by the local parliament or scrutinized by the Public Accounts Committee. In fact, it is a normal government practice to not include any details about the royal budget in the budget speech, it said.
While the King’s budget soared, grants for the elderly was reduced by $488,000 from $12.3 million to $11.8 million, according to budget documents.
ELDERLY STAY POOR AS KING GETS MORE
SWAZI SECURITY BUDGET SOARS
MONEY FOR KING’S JET, BUT NOT DROUGHT