The following is a media statement issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network about the decision of the Swazi Government to impose income tax on the poorest workers in the kingdom.
09 March, 2009
It is apparent to anybody who is not in denial that the Swazi economy is on its knees.
It is apparent to anybody who is not in denial that the Swazi economy is on its knees. The country’s revenue has sunk so low that the government, through the ministry of finance has decided to resort to the most pathetically anti-poor policies in order to remedy the situation.
The Swazi economy has not been doing well for the last decade, recording the lowest economic growth in the region at an average of 2% annually when the regional aggregate was 5%. What made the situation worse was that when the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recently decided to review its formula for sharing receipts it reduced Swaziland’s share by 30.8 percent. That act in itself was enough to lead to a crisis in a country so heavily dependent on SACU receipts for its revenue. As a direct result the ministry of finance to reduce the national budget by E1 Billion for the 2010 financial year. This budget cut was enforced indiscriminately throughout all ministries, which meant that already ailing ministries like the health and education ministries would also be expected to go deeper into crisis.
Alongside these drastic yet unavoidable measures, the government seeks to increase its revenue base. Unfortunately, in doing so, it has done the unthinkable by introducing a 3% tax for the poorest labourers whose have previously been deemed too low to be taxed. This is an outrageous demand to make on a population that has had to endure lack of basic necessities that government has an obligation to fund. It is a move which will increase the economic gap between the country’s elite and the poor folk whose cheap labour is the reason why Swaziland still has an economy in the first place. It is also a move that exhibits a low level of thinking. Taxing the poorest labourers amounts to burning a candle at both ends, and it will only exacerbate the prevailing circumstance instead of remedying the situation. This is unfortunately not the time to destabilise the population by enforcing policies that will impact negatively on the morale of the economy’s producers. It is a time to make the decisions which, although unpopular to the ruling elite, will resuscitate the economy
A more logical approach would therefore include reducing the royal budget or simply just doing away with it completely. The royal family has enough privately owned assets and companies to feed itself. There is absolutely no reason why it should still be on public welfare at the expense of more deserving sectors of the population. Another perhaps more pragmatic solution would be reducing the defence budget, which currently stands at E663 million, despite the fact that the country is not at war and has more than enough police and riot-police to control the population, should it find the need to do so.
Issued by The Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] South African Chapter.