Thursday, July 19, 2018

Police, Emergency Services ‘to Grind to Halt’ as Govt Fails to Pay Fuel Suppliers

Police, fire and other emergency services in Swaziland / Eswatini are set to grind to a halt because of a fuel shortage for vehicles after the government failed to pay suppliers.

It follows reports that medicines are running out in government hospitals and clinics and schoolchildren are going hungry because food bills have not been paid.

The government owes a total of E2.78 billion to its suppliers, it was revealed last week.

The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday (19 July 2018) a source revealed, ‘It was highly likely that all government cars could soon be grounded, something which would affect essential services like the police, health sector, Fire and Emergency Services, among others.’

It added, ‘Furthermore, the insider alleged that the shortage of fuel had been caused by government’s cash flow challenges which had been experienced by the country since the economical meltdown started some years ago.’

The Times reported, ‘Sources from some of the government departments which provide essential services in the kingdom attested to the looming crisis.’

Swaziland is broke and as of 30 June 2018 owed a total of E12.9 billion (U$97 million), the equivalent of 20.8 percent of the kingdom’s GDP. Of that nearly E3 billion is owed to suppliers of goods and services.

All areas of public services have been hit by the financial crisis as companies refuse to supply the government until outstanding bills are dealt with, announced it had run out of stocks of medicines because the government has not paid its bills.

Last week Swazipharm, Swaziland’s largest distributor of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to the healthcare system of Swaziland, including government hospitals, private hospitals, local government, clinics, humanitarian organisations, private organisations, missionaries, pharmacies and chemists, reported it was running out of stocks because bills had not been paid.

Long before Swazipharm’s announcement medicines, including  vaccines against polio and tuberculosis had run out in many government hospitals and clinics because drug suppliers had not been paid. In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament  that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.

In June 2018 it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with gold weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. He now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.

Seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. 

Despite the funding crisis, the Swazi Government still found US$30 million to buy the King a second private plane. It has also earmarked E1.5bn this year to build a conference centre and five-star hotel to host the African Union summit in 2020 that will last only eight days and it has budgeted E5.5 million to build Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement house. There are also plans for a new parliament building that will cost E2.3 billion.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom in the coming six months.

See also




No comments: