The elderly in Swaziland have not been paid pensions because the government does not have the money.
This was revealed when about 4,000 people became eligible for the pensions (known as elderly grants) when they reached the age of 60 and many were turned away when they went to collect them.
Meanwhile, King Mswati III has had a budget increase that would pay for the new pensions ten times over.
A media report in Swaziland estimated that the government needed about an extra E20 million (US$1.4 million) to pay for the new pensioners and another E40 million to meet a shortfall to pay the existing 66,000 people already receiving the pensions.
The Government said it had no budget to pay the new pensions. It has a budget of E282 million for the elderly, but with the reviewed monthly grant, rising from E220 to E400 has meant that this budget became insufficient, the Observer on Saturday reported (18 November 2017).
The Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini told the House of Assembly there was no money to pay the grants. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘Dlamini said these new elderly had not been budgeted for by government nor was an allocation made by Parliament.’
The newspaper added, ‘He said government was not reneging on its commitment to support the welfare of the elderly, but was resource constrained.’
Although the government did not provide sufficiently for the elderly in its 2017 budget it did increase spending on the Swaziland Royal Household by E200 million (US$14 million) to E1.3 billion. King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
An independent monthly magazine in the kingdom the Nation reported (April 2017), ‘While the entire budget for King Mswati and the royal household continues to grow in hundreds of millions of emalangeni every year, social grants for elderly and the physically challenged showed a very insignificant increase.’
Seven in ten of the King’s 1.3 million subjects have incomes of less than US$2 per day.
The Nation reported the budget increase as ‘mouth-watering’. It said elderly grants had a ‘paltry’ increase. The Finance Minister Martin Dlamini announced in his February budget the grant would rise from E240 to E400 per month.
The Nation reported, ‘Even health institutions have seen cuts to their budget allocations this year while the army’s allocation continues to rise unabated even though the country is at peace. Money for agriculture has also been cut, despite that the country has just come out a devastating drought and farmers need help to find their feet.’
King Mswati has been criticised outside Swaziland for his lavish spending. He has 13 palaces, fleets of BMW and Mercedes cars and at least one Rolls-Royce. He is to receive a second private jet aircraft next year.
In the budget announced in February 2017, nearly E2.7 billion (US$216 million) was allocated to the kingdom’s security forces that comprise the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), Royal Swaziland Police Service (RSPS) and His Majesty’s Correctional Services (HMCS).
This is more than the E2.2bn allocated to health in the coming financial year and E585 million more than allocated to security in 2016-2017.
Security now takes up 12.4 percent of Swaziland’s total budget of E21.7bn ($US1.66 bn), up 11 percent on last year.
In the calendar year 2014, Swaziland’s military spending was estimated to be US$80.6 million; about the equivalent of US$62 for every person in the kingdom.
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