RDF may not get share of E1.7bn
MBABANE – Much of the E1.7 billion expected from SACU this month will go towards paying off government debts.
Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Finance Khabonina Mabuza said there may not be enough remaining for other obligations after that, such as for the Regional Development Fund (RDF).
SACU stands for Southern African Customs Union from which government is entitled to revenue each year. This year’s revenue is E7 billion, which will be paid out in four quarterly payments.
The first payment came through on the first week of April (start of first quarter), and according to Mabuza the second instalment is expected within the first week of the current month (July).
In an interview yesterday, she also said it was highly unlikely that any funds would be channelled to the RDF because of the many arrears government had to clear up. Government’s debt is in excess of E4 billion, she said. Government has to pay suppliers and even service loans among other things.
"A great portion of the SACU money will go into settling government ministries’ debts, so by the time focus is shifted to other initiatives there may not really be enough money. We have an obligation to clear arrears," said Mabuza, who is also a member of government’s Cashflow Committee.
She highlighted that the ministries of Health and Education remained the highest priority and any arrears in these ministries had to be cleared quickly. The RDF is responsible for funding developmental projects in the 55 constituencies of the country. It was allocated with a budget of E80 million this financial year, but government has failed to release the E20 million per quarter required due to the financial crisis. Consequently, government, through the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development, has promised to pay E5 million for now. Members of Parliament (MPs) voiced their dissatisfaction with this meagre payment in parliament in the last three weeks.
They felt that putting less money into the RDF was killing the Tinkhundla political system which sustained the kingdom. However, the PS yesterday appealed for patience from MPs and said government needed their cooperation if the country is to survive the current fiscal crisis. "It’s better to receive a drop than nothing at all.
"Financially, government is not out of the woods yet," she said.
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