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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

SWAZI ECONOMY ON EDGE OF ABYSS

Just when you thought Swaziland’s economic crisis couldn’t get any worse, it does. The Swazi Government that is being forced to sack 7,000 public servants says it no longer has the money to pay for early retirements.


Evart Madlopha, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service said, ‘We seriously have a problem of cash flow at the moment due to the financial crisis faced by the country.’


Now, there must be serious doubts about whether the government has money for redundancy payments of any kind for the civil servants.


The Swazi Government promised last year (2010) to put aside E65 million (US$9 million) in an Enhanced Voluntary Exit Retirement Scheme (EVERS) that would allow people to retire after 10 years service. Some people would be able to retire aged 45.


The news that the money is not there comes less than a week after the Swaziland Government managed to sell only one-fifth of the E750 million worth of bonds it needed to on the financial markets. The money from the sale was meant to pay the government’s bills in the short term.


With that failure, the Swazi economy is close to the abyss. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding 7,000 public service job cuts and a raft of cuts in public expenditure and financial reforms in return for supporting Swaziland’s application for a loan from the African Development Bank.


What happens next is unclear. Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, has already voiced concerns that job cuts could lead to civil unrest. It is estimated that in Swaziland every civil servant salary supports 10 family members. If civil servants are forced out of work the social consequences are huge. They will be even greater if the civil servants are sent home with no pay-offs.


King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, will be aware of events in Tunisia and Egypt where dictatorships have toppled after social unrest. Many of the people who led the protests were from the ‘middle class’, but unemployed.


Now Swaziland is putting 7,000 middle class civil servants and their tens of thousands of dependents on the scrapheap. Who can predict what happens next?

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