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E20 increase to the elderly grant '˜laughable'

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MBABANE – Elderly people have been given a ‘laughable’ E20 increase to their monthly grant and they will now receive E220 from the previous amount of E200.

This means every elderly person will now receive a yearly grant of E2 640 from E2 400.

Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole presented these new figures when tabling the Appropriation Bill of 2013 (otherwise known as the Budget Speech) in the House of Assembly yesterday.

contribution

"Mr Speaker, today the elderly are the bedrock of our broken homes and the glue that holds our communities together. In recognition of their contribution to society, the government will increase the elderly grant by 10 per cent to E2 640 per annum. This will cost an additional E13.2 million, bringing the total budget to E157 million," the minister said.

However, the increment has not at all pleased the elderly people who have viewed it as nothing but a mockery of the contribution they have made to the country.

Mkhuluza Zwane, who is Founder and Director of Umtfunti WemaSwati Old Age Association – an organisation that speaks on behalf of the elderly, said this was a sign of how ‘useless’ the elderly are considered to be in Swaziland.

"This is laughable. It is really painful to be an elderly person in Swaziland. We are the least considered people. This is how this government thanks us. Bones are thrown to people who are useless and that is what has happened. It shows that we are considered as useless and ready to die."

Zwane said Swaziland should learn from neighbouring South Africa where the elderly are well-taken care of as they are given a monthly grant of E1 200.

"We should at least be given a monthly grant of E600. E220 is as good as E200, there is just no significant increase. Seemingly, Swaziland has no money when it comes to the elderly but it does have money when government wants to spend lavishly."

He continued: "This E20 is not an increase; we cannot even talk about it. We are a laughing stock as the elderly people. We are ready to be thrown away and we do not care anymore because we are nothing."

According to government estimates for the years April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2016, an amount of E156 535 000 will be spent paying the elderly grants this 2013/2014 financial year.

This is an increase from the E143 335 000 spent during the 2012/2013 financial year.

Most homesteads in Swaziland are headed either by the elderly or children due to the impact of HIV/AIDS which has seen parents dying and leaving their off-spring behind.

retirement

The elderly, who are unemployed after having reached the retirement age of 60, have to use their social grant of E200 a month to take care of the children left behind by their parents.

Sithole, the finance minister, highlighted that an estimated 63 per cent of Swaziland’s population lives below the poverty line.

"Worryingly, the Central Statistics Office suggests that the poorest fifth of our society has not benefitted from the moderate growth of the past decade. Social safety nets are vital to help these households move out of poverty and to prevent others from falling into poverty," he said.

Education, health to share E12.6 billion

 

MBABANE – The Ministry of Education and Training together with the Ministry of Health have received a lion’s share of the E12.6 billion national budget for the 2013/2014 financial year.

This is in line with recommendations from the International Monetary Fund which has insisted on education and health being prioritised.

In its latest stamen on the country’s economic position, the IMF said: "Directors underlined the importance of increasing the share of targeted social spending in the budget, especially on education, poverty alleviation, youth unemployment and health care."

The ministry of education and training has been allocated a total of E2.17 billion and an additional E126.3 million allocated for capital expenditure.

legacy

In his budget speech yesterday, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole it was their wish ‘to ensure that wider access to education remains a legacy for this parliament’.

"That is why the government has agreed to increase the total budget for the Ministry of Education by over E150 million to around 18 per cent of the total budget, excluding statutory. The recurrent budget will increase to E2.1 billion."

On the other hand, the Ministry of Health has been allocated a total of around E1.4 billion which is inclusive of E241 031 000 for capital expenditure.

Sithole said challenges in the health sector remained arguably the greatest of all as the country has a high rate of HIV; a high incidence of TB; and a below average life expectancy.

"Poor health outcomes ruin people’s lives and constrain economic growth. They must be addressed," the minister said and continued: "Despite the recent fiscal challenges, Government has made health a priority. Since 2007/08, the government has more than doubled the budget allocation for the Ministry of Health. The ministry is now receiving an additional 3.2 per cent of the total budget. Spending on drugs has nearly tripled, so that in 2012/13, 13 per cent of total spending on goods and services by government is going to drugs. This is up from just four per cent in 2008/09.

We will continue this commitment and add another E13 million for drugs in 2013/14, taking the total to over E245 million."

The minister said the commitment to health had come with ‘great benefits’ especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS; with 37 men being circumcised; 83 000 men and women provided with anti-retroviral drugs; and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission rated as one of the best in the world.

increased

"In addition, the government has increased the number of facilities providing TB treatment from 17 in 2009 to 70 in 2012. The TB treatment success rate has also increased to 73 per cent. We are gaining worldwide recognition for our efforts to eradicate Malaria. Since 2009 the number of malaria cases has fallen by 90 per cent. More generally, the expansion of the Central Medical Stores has minimised stock-out periods for drugs helping all of us get access to the treatments that we need. And significantly, 24 under-five child mortality has fallen from 120 deaths per 1 000 births in 2007 to just 104 deaths per 1 000 births in 2011," Sithole said.

He said these were significant achievements and government would continue showing commitment to the health sector.

…It’s good they are going

 

MBABANE – The country’s elderly generation is bitter at the present parliamentarians for not representing their interests.

They said the E20 increase to their monthly grant was evidence that legislators did not take seriously the welfare of the elderly.

"I am happy that this Parliament is coming to the end of its term and may be those that will come in will look at our plight.

"For the past five years, we, as the elderly, did not have a Parliament," said Mkhuluza Zwane, founder of the Umtfunti WemaSwati Old Age Association. He noted that to further demonstrate the plight of the elderly, they were stopped from going on national radio to speak about issues affecting them.

 

"We are just voiceless; no one represents us in Parliament and we have been cut from using the radio. We have been cut from every platform," Zwane said.

 

 

 

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