Tuesday, May 5, 2009


The Swaziland Government wants to know just how poor people are in the kingdom.

We already know that seven in ten people in Swaziland earn less than one US dollar a day, but that hasn’t stopped the government embarking on the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey which will ask a selected number of families to record where their money comes from and how they spend it.

The families will be expected to declare how much money they earn and how much they spend on food, clothes and other items. They will also be expected to declare any gifts they receive from any source – and quantify them in monetary terms.

When there is so much poverty in the kingdom this does seem to be a bit of a waste of time ... and money.

However, I can see the survey having some value, as long as one particular family takes part: the one headed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

We already know the king has wealth estimated at 200 million US dollars (E2 billion), but what we don’t know is where that money comes from. He doesn’t have a proper job and the E130 million he is getting this year from the Swazi taxpayer is only a drop in the ocean.

It would also be handy to know how much he spends on palaces and his wives dresses. Last month (April 2009) he was reported to be buying up to 20 armoured cars for himself and his many wives but he got a bit shirty when the media estimated the cost to be about 2.5 million US dollars. A bit of transparency over the king’s spending would be most welcome.

Also in the realms of spending, it seems I’m not the only one worried about the way the king and his government spend money. It was revealed this week that a group of international donors with 40 million dollars to give to Swaziland are to meet with the king to ensure that he and his government don’t get their hands on the money. The donors want the money to go into a trust fund to be administered from South Africa with cash released directly to specific projects which satisfy the donors’ requirements.

And who can blame them when according to the Swazi Government itself E40 million a month is lost in Swaziland through corruption?

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