Saturday, March 23, 2019

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

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland / eSwatini and the man who wore a suit studded with diamonds and a watch worth US$1.6 million at his 50th birthday celebration, told a United Nations meeting he would soon issue a report on ending poverty in his kingdom.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Friday (22 March 2019), ‘The King assured that government took seriously the poverty challenges and did not want to leave any citizen behind in its development agenda.’

He spoke at the United Nations conference on South - South Cooperation held in Argentina.

There have been no shortages of reports about poverty in Swaziland in recent years. In August 2018 a report published by the World Bank stated, ‘Poverty, inequality and unemployment are the primary development challenges which have remained stubborn and difficult to address.’

It said,  ‘Based on the international poverty lines of US$1.9 and US$3.2 a day, it is estimated that 38 percent of the Swazi population [estimated at 1.2 million] lives in extreme poverty and a total of 60.3 percent is poor overall. These estimates represent a relatively small improvement from the 2009 finding that 42.0 percent were subsisting below the $1.9 a day line and 64.4 percent were below the $3.2 a day line. 

‘In general, children, the elderly, the unemployed as well as female-headed and single-headed households are disproportionately represented among the poor.’
In December 2018 a report published by Afrobarometer suggested poverty in Swaziland got worse over the previous three years.

More than half the people interviewed reported going without enough food and without needed medical care.

The numbers going without food was 56 percent (up from 51 percent from a similar survey taken in 2015). Those going without medical care was 53 percent (up from 33 percent).

Afrobarometer, a pan-African non-partisan research network that works in 37 African countries, identified what it called ‘lived poverty’ (a lack of basic life necessities).

It reported, ‘Afrobarometer assesses the prevalence of “lived poverty” by asking respondents how often, over the previous year, they or their family members went without enough food, enough clean water, needed medicine or medical care, enough cooking fuel, and a cash income.’

It added, ‘While lived poverty had been declining in eSwatini between the years 2013 and 2015, there has been an increase since then. The share of citizens who went without enough to eat at least once during the previous 12 months increased by 5 percentage points between 2015 and 2018, from 51 percent to 56 percent, while those who experienced a lack of clean water grew by 7 points, from 47 per cent to 54 percent.

‘The largest increases were observed among those who experienced shortages of medical care (from 33 percent to 53 percent) and cooking fuel (from 30 percent to 49 percent). 

‘More than seven in 10 respondents (71 percent) say they went without a cash income at least once during the previous year, up from 68 percent in 2015.  

‘High lived poverty (or frequently going without basic necessities) was experienced by one in four citizens and is twice as common in rural areas as in cities (27 percent vs. 14 percent). It declines steeply as respondents’ education level increases: 62 percent of people without formal education experienced high lived poverty, compared to 34 percent of those with primary education, 20 percent of those with secondary schooling, and 11 percent of those with post-secondary qualifications. 

‘And lived poverty increases with age, ranging from 16 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds to 39 percent of those who are 56 or older.’

Afrobarometer was not the first organisation to identify the state of poverty in Swaziland. In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa detailing the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.

Despite the extreme poverty, the Swazi Government still found 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.

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

PM gets it wrong on poverty

Economy: impossible to cut poverty

Huge rise in Swazi King’s budget
King gets new jet as people starve
Swazis among hungriest in the world

No comments: