Monday, March 25, 2019

Swaziland people pay E1 billion for absolute King’s upkeep, but it’s kept a secret

An independent magazine in Swaziland / eSwatini has reported that absolute monarch King Mswati III and his family were allocated E1 billion for their spending from the national budget in the past year, but this information has been kept secret from the public.

The Nation, a well-established monthly comment magazine, said this came at a time when the Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg said the kingdom could not afford to pay public servants cost of living salary adjustments.

The Nation reported (March 2019) that expenditure on the King was controlled by the Swazi National Treasury (SNT). Although the Auditor General audits SNT accounts each year its report is not made public. The Nation reported, ‘Audited statements of the SNT were removed from the public eye in 1992 when then Minister of Finance, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, was stung by numerous revelations of scandals of gross misuse of public funds by that institution.’

Dlamini went on to be appointed Prime Minister by King Mswati and held office for a total of 17 years.

Citing an SNT report, the Nation said the E1 billion was ‘the entire budget for the royal households’ allocated for the financial year 2018 – 2019. The sum compares to the E2 billion budgeted for health; E1.5 billion for Defence and E1.4 billion for Agriculture.

In Swaziland nearly seven in ten of the 1.2 million population live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$3 per day (about E43). 

Swaziland has been regularly criticised by the United States for not revealing full details of the budget to the people. The U.S. Department of State in its 2018 Fiscal Transparency Report reviewed the kingdom’s budget and concluded that while budget documents ‘provided a general picture of government revenues and expenditures, revenues from natural resources and land leases were not included in the budget. Expenditures to support the royal family were included in the budget but lacked specific detail and were not subject to the same oversight as the rest of the budget.’

 In Swaziland King Mswati controls natural mineral rights. He holds 25 percent of mining royalties ‘in trust’ for the Swazi Nation. The government also takes 25 percent. The Fiscal Transparency Report stated, ‘Criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, but the opacity [lack of clarity] of the procedures, which involve submitting applications for licenses directly to the King, cast doubt on whether the government actually followed the law in practice. 

‘Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was not always publicly available.’

The U.S releases annual reports on fiscal transparency for countries that receive its financial assistance to ‘help ensure U.S. taxpayer money is used appropriately’. It said Swaziland had shown no improvement in fiscal transparency since the previous report in 2017.

See also

Swaziland King prepares for lavish birthday celebrations, despite dire poverty in the kingdom

No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth

Swazi budget a tale of woes

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