Monday, February 23, 2009


There’s more bad news on the HIV AIDS front in Swaziland.

On top of the revelation that 42 percent of pregnant women in Swaziland are HIV-positive (the highest in the world) comes a report showing that a quarter of the kingdom’s workforce is absent because of HIV AIDS.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says this has hit Swaziland’s economy badly.

It says about 40 percent of the Swaziland’s one million people are thought to be unemployed; Swaziland would require annual growth of 3.6 percent to prevent worsening poverty, but currently struggles to achieve 2 percent. At present 70 percent of the people live in dire poverty earning less than one US dollar a day.

What this means is that Swaziland’s already poor economy is getting worse because of the HIV AIDS pandemic and there’s no reason to believe the situation will improve.

Swaziland is also much worse off than other countries in southern Africa. ‘According to a World Bank investment climate assessment survey [of Swaziland], over 50 percent of company managers reported much higher worker absenteeism due to sickness than other countries in Southern Africa,’ the IMF said.

The cost of replacing ill or deceased workers is expected to increase as the disease progresses from HIV to AIDS. Citing projections compiled by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the IMF report said by 2016, eight percent of Swaziland's GDP would be devoted to training workers to replace those who have died from AIDS.

The IMF calculated that the cost of replacing teachers alone would be R2.3 billion (230 million US dolars) in the next seven years.

Along with basic fiscal and structural reforms, the IMF recommended that government place a greater emphasis on combating HIV AIDS.

King Mswati III, who has been criticised for his own role in allowing HIV to spread in Swaziland, made no mention of HIV AIDS when he opened parliament earlier this month (February 2009).

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