Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Swaziland breaks promise to pay off its suppliers to halt public services meltdown

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government failed to meet its promise to repay E3billon (US$200 million) its owes to suppliers by the end of September 2019.

Public services, especially in heath and schools, are in crisis because businesses are refusing to provide goods and services until their bills are paid.

The government has failed to secure loans to settle the arrears. The failure is a significant setback to the government, that was not elected but handpicked by absolute monarch King Mswati III.

After it came into power following the September 2018 election it pledged to get the ailing economy back on track.

The Times of eSwatini, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported, ‘When asked whether they had been able to meet the September deadline as earlier promised, Ministry of Finance Communications Officer Setsabile Dlamini could only say: “raising money for the settling of arrears is work in progress. However, it still has to go through Parliament.”’

Dlamini added, ‘Government was engaging a number of financiers, both local and external, with a view to pay up the arrears with intent to ultimately bolster eSwatini’s economy for the better.’

The Times reported, ‘Dlamini assured that a detailed austerity measures report would be issued soon.’

It added ‘In his presentation of the integrated annual report, Central Bank of Eswatini Governor Majozi Sithole further noted that the economic activity was projected to decelerate to 1.4 per cent in 2019 from 2.4 per cent in 2018.’

This contradicts a statement by Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg who as recently as September 2019 told the African Development Bank, ‘We believe there’s not a problem we can’t solve … We believe that we’ve turned a corner. The indicators … are turning from an unsustainable future to a sustainable future.’

In June 2019, he told newspaper editors in the kingdom, ‘Government is working on proposals to financiers to secure funding of arrears of around E3billion as at 31st March 2019. It is important to note that payment of suppliers is an ongoing process, payments have never stopped, we pay as and when revenue is received.’

Meanwhile, the Swazi Government continues to insist that it does not have the money to pay public servants 7.8 percent cost-of-living salary increases. Unions have been striking for more pay while the government has offered zero percent.

Public services across the kingdom have ground to a halt with reports of people dying for lack of medicines and children going hungry because the government was unable to pay suppliers of meals for children.

In 2017 King Mswati was named the third wealthiest King in Africa by the international website Business Insider. It reported he had a net worth of US$200 million (about E3 billion in local Swazi currency). The King rules a population of about 1.3 million people and seven in ten of them live in abject poverty with incomes of less than E30 per day. 

King Mswati and his family live a lavish lifestyle, at the expense of the people of Swaziland. 

The Swazi Government paid US$30 million to buy the King a private jet plane in 2018. King Mswati now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April 2018. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts. 

His family regularly travel the world on shopping trips spending millions of dollars each time.
Meanwhile, the World Food Program said it could not raise the US$1.1 million it needed to feed starving children in the kingdom.

See also

More deaths in Swaziland as government fails to pay medicine suppliers

Swaziland schoolchildren learn under trees or in tents as government runs out of money

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