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FINANCE BILL WON’T GET GOVT OUT OF THE WOODS

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THE government of the Kingdom of Eswatini has a one-fits-all solution when it comes to cash-flow crises ostensibly because, to paraphrase Abraham Maslow, American professor of psychology (1908 – 1970), the only tool at its disposal is a hammer and, therefore, tends to see every problem as a nail.


The Finance Bill of 2018 currently being debated in Parliament is government’s tool, the hammer, and the nail is its concomitant cash-flow problems. Put simply, government is looking up to the proposed law (Finance Bill) as a solution to solving what is gradually becoming a persistent cash-flow problem that is refusing to go away.


Thus, the proposed law will become government’s piggy bank through which to raise money to finance projects that are of little or no relevancy to the national economic development imperatives and to the people.


Essentially, what the proposed law seeks to do is overly burden the taxpayer by escalating the costs of government services that, ordinarily, ought to be easily accessible and affordable to the people. But once the Legislature rubber-stamps, which lawmakers are expected to achieve without any minimum pressure, the Finance Bill into law a majority of the people who fall below the international poverty datum line would find it impossible to access and afford basic services, such as obtaining a travel document.


Put in similar circumstances such as that in which government finds itself, which in any way rarely happens, a majority of governments across the globe would initially look at other options through which to raise revenue other than taxing the citizens to death.
For these governments raising taxes - directly or indirectly by commercialising basic services by pricing them beyond affordability of the majority of the people – would be the last resort because it could put them out of business. Of course the difference between governments across the globe and that of this kingdom is that the former are democratic and are for, by and driven by the people and serve at the pleasure of the people to whom they are answerable.
The same cannot be said of this government.
While it is easy for loyalists and apologists of the obtaining political hegemony to point to the ongoing election process as validating and underpinning a people-driven government, it is pedestrian that the Legislature - as are all other arms of government and institutions - is not independent and autonomous but only serves to project a false veneer, as if the people have a say in who and how they are governed. And the people have ventilated on this at successive Sibaya in 2012 and 2016 but nothing has been done to date to either address their concerns or reform the political status quo.
Government has also failed to heed to advices from observer missions to successive elections over the years and continues on its ruinous path. The European Union Election Observer Mission, the African Union Election Observer Mission and the Commonwealth Election Observer Mission were all unanimous in their conclusions variously that it was impossible to hold credible, free and fair elections without political parties under the obtaining Tinkhundla political system.
The Commonwealth Observer Mission even blamed the obtaining polity for compromising the country’s development over the decades when it stated: “As one of the 32 small states in the Commonwealth, the achievements of Swaziland’s (today read as Eswatini’s) development objectives were being constrained by a system where, firstly, Parliament did not have power due to prevailing inconsistencies and contradictions… and secondly, political parties were proscribed…”
With yet another election upon us, government has done nothing to ensure that the process will receive a clean bill of health from international observers. It seems government is happy that the kingdom remains the black sheep of all the countries with which it shares membership to bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), etc, for refusing to implement international instruments it has ratified, including, noted the African Union Election Observer Mission in its report post-2013 election, the African Commission’s Resolution on Swaziland (to read Eswatini) of April 18 2012 taken in Banjul, The Gambia, ‘calling on the government of the kingdom to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly by repealing the relevant laws restricting political party participation in the electoral process’.
As I see it, if government was indeed answerable to the nation it is unlikely that it would have pursued the path of overburdening the people with such a harsh tax regime and commercialising, apropos pricing of, essential government services because of the foreknowledge that the electorate can unseat it from power. In fact, it is unlikely that government would be facing this cash crunch had it been accountable to the people because it would be spending wisely and not wasting money on projects that seek to project this false image of a wealthy nation when the people are prisoners to poverty and disease.
And even assuming that a cash-flow was justifiable in the circumstances, government’s initial port of call would have been to look at its expenditure with a view of eliminating unnecessary expenses and wastages. This, perhaps, could have led to stopping and abandoning projects with no foreseeable economic benefits; aggressively pursuing a public private partnerships agenda to spur economic development via domestic and foreign direct investments; putting a moratorium on recruitment in all the security agencies, which naturally should be the dividend for the prevailing peace the political establishment boasts of to anyone who cares to listen; freezing salary increments and benefits for Cabinet

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