Thursday, September 15, 2011


King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland, has falsely accused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of treating his kingdom more harshly than other nations over its financial meltdown.

He told a meeting of the Smart Partnership National Dialogue in Swaziland yesterday (14 September 2011) that the IMF wanted to help Swaziland with a bailout but it wanted it to meet financial conditions first before it would offer its support.

The king – recently criticised in a cable from the US Embassy in Swaziland as ‘not intellectually well developed’ – showed his deep ignorance of recent history when he told the meeting that his kingdom was being treated differently from countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland, which also needed bailouts.

‘However, when they come here you see that they treat us in a different spirit. We are told that before we get a bailout we should implement pay cuts and also retrench government employees,’ the Times of Swaziland quotes the king saying.

But the truth is that these countries were required to cut public expenditure, slash the pay of public employees, and retrench civil servants. So, in fact, Swaziland is being treated in exactly the same way as these other countries.

The king also tried to deflect criticism away from the government he handpicked by claiming that the IMF was forcing it to cut public sector jobs. He also claimed that the IMF was forcing his government to retrench workers without consultation.

The fact is that the IMF has ordered none of these things to be done. King Mswati’s Government, headed by Barnabas Dlamini, the man he illegally-appointed Prime Minister, came up with what it grandly called a Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR) to save the economy. The Swazi Government had complete control over the contents of this. It knew it had to get its financial house in order and chose to attack public spending and target public sector workers’ pay and jobs rather than, for example, cut the enormous allowances government ministers and MPs pay themselves from the public purse.

The government chose not to engage in meaningful dialogue with the workers. The labour unions are eager for talks.

The Associated Press quoted the king blaming the IMF for the delay in Swaziland implementing any financial changes.

‘It is lies that we refuse to embrace IMF programs.’ the AP quoted the king saying. ‘What we want is that the IMF hear our side of the story as a country. Something which it refuses to do.’

In fact, the IMF regularly visits Swaziland to do exactly that. Its last visit was last month (August 2011), when it met with the king and senior government ministers and asked how far they had got in implementing their own FAR. The answer was not far, so the IMF said it could not offer its support to Swaziland for a loan from the African Development Bank.

The fault for Swaziland’s financial crisis lies with King Mswati and the succession of governments he handpicked. To blame the IMF is a smokescreen.

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