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IT is that time of the year when government ministries are busy preparing budget requests for the next financial year. It is fair to say the populace is at the mercy of the officers and line ministers who get to decide where our taxes ought to be spent.

How well have they performed? Well the answer lies in the current state of our economy. Terribly! The reason for this is simple. It is because those with decision making powers have discarded WHY they serve in government. It is apparent that they have allowed self interests to override their moral and social obligation to serve us.

The chaos in Parliament on Wednesday, sparked by the anticipated elderly grants statement that never came from Cabinet, is a case in point. The prime minister and his deputy left the country on national assignments without a care to update the nation on Cabinet’s position regarding the elderly grants for the ‘new 60-year-olds’, as promised by the premier. That says a mouthful about his attitude (and that of government) to this sector of our society.

This is a sector that forms part of the 63 per cent of the population currently living in poverty that has little or no voice in what the next budget priorities should be. Cabinet will always say its policies are ‘people driven’ and drawn from the National Development Strategy (NDS) which informs Vision 2022.

The NDS gave birth to the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Programme (PRSAP) which was given the ambitious target of reducing the country’s poverty rate to 30 per cent by 2015 and to completely eradicate it by the year 2022. We are nowhere near this target. If anything, it could get worse given the -0.6 per cent rate at which our economy is growing.

According to the External Assistance to Swaziland Report 2016-17, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development acknowledges that ‘the main dimensions for a sound quality of life are poverty reduction (and ultimately eradication), employment creation, gender equity (the empowerment of women and other disadvantaged groups), social integration, environmental protection and political stability and freedom. These dimensions are, in turn, linked to education, health and other aspects of human capital development’. 

It further states that ‘underpinning the vision is the imperative to accelerate growth of the economy and ideally transform the country from its limited agricultural and manufacturing base to a higher state of industrialisation which will in turn pave the way for a knowledge-based economy. The attainment of this vision hinges on four areas, namely: good governance; a vibrant and diverse economy; environmental sustainability; and human capital and social development’.

Is this visible with what we see today? If it were, we certainly wouldn’t be ranked at 148th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index as of 2015.

The reason for this can be found in the way national resources are distributed. Looking at the PRSAP, the top priorities are centred on growing the economy, creating jobs, sharing the benefits of growth fairly and empowering the poor to sustain themselves.
However, the security forces get the second largest chunk of the national budget and much more than the Agriculture budget which is not even in the top five. This, despite that the agriculture sector employs almost 75 per cent of the working population in this country. Then you wonder why a population of 1.1 million cannot feed itself.

The job creation desired by PRSAP is not the hiring of security personnel but rather one of creating a conducive environment for a thriving private sector that can absorb our educated youth who currently form part of the country’s 28 per cent unemployment rate. 
As a country we are heavily reliant on the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) to pay salaries and extremely dependent on external assistance from our development partners to take care of our social needs. Nearly a quarter of government revenue came from external assistance.

This is huge and places us in a highly vulnerable state considering that major funders like the United States of America is scaling down on foreign aid. Yet we continue to behave like a spoilt child that thinks ‘manna from heaven’ will always fall given our non-aggressive approach to diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on foreign aid and SACU receipts.

This is the same attitude we had during the days of abundance while the region was engulfed in conflict and many investors found refuge in the kingdom. Now we have to contend with the liberalisation of Zimbabwe which has already sparked a huge investor interest in ways that Mozambique did when peace prevailed.

We, therefore, urge our government officials to remember their cause and put together a budget that will work towards extricating our economy from the shackles of self destruction.


“All organisations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves.” Simon Sinek, - Author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. 

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