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PRIVATE SECTOR FOR CIVIL SERVANTS?

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DO you think it is easy to get services from the private sector if you are not a civil servant, an employee of a parastatal or one of the very few big companies in Eswatini?

Civil service jobs are cushy, they come with permanent positions pensionable through the Public Service Pension Fund.  As an ordinary someone, try applying for a personal loan, a home loan or vehicle financing, then you begin to see things differently. You begin to realise that having an ordinary job without the weight of government, a parastatal, or a big company backing your income, you are basically irrelevant to the private sector.


When it comes to things that matter, such as getting a home loan, local financial institutions will go out of their way to service civil servants. Besides the normal commercial banks, there is also Select Swaziland and First Finance, just to name a few of the agencies dedicated to servicing our precious civil servants. For example, First Finance primarily offers general purpose finance products to civil servants, parastatals, selected private organisations that have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the company.


There is nothing wrong with businesses and banks in the private sector providing dedicated services to civil servants. Money is money and when spent in the local economy it can stimulate the much needed job creation and economic growth. However, the fact that the private sector, especially the financial sector, has now moulded many of their products and services specifically to focus on civil servants is a sign that Eswatini now has a huge public sector that has become the bread and butter of the private sector. Is it wrong or is it right?


Fortunately, I am not the one to decide but I think the public and private sector dependency will soon become the Achilles heel of the economy in Eswatini. If the private sector continues to create business opportunities that are heavily dependent on the G-wallet, then there is no hope for real and vibrant private sector-led development in Eswatini.

When government coffers run dry, as is the case in the current fiscal climate, the private sector will directly feel the pinch and be the first one to cry. Business will start blaming government for unpaid bills and disruption of their operations. Yet, sustainable business models in the private sector should only marginally be affected by government spending and its fiscal position.


Let me give you one case, but a significant one, about how things work in favour of civil servants. Everyone dreams about owning a home and only the cream of our society is at liberty to buy title deed property in municipal jurisdictions and other privately developed land. This is because high income earners in Eswatini can afford to take home loans without paying much attention to the ridiculous interest and high monthly instalments needed to service those loans. On top of that, the top class people can afford to pay municipal rates on their properties without a flinch.


To the middle class of our country on modest incomes between E10 000 to E25 000, owning a home is also possible but the pinch on their wallets becomes very real. This is because on these modest middle incomes, owning a home comes with serious sacrifice on other items on the household budget. Own a home, give up the prospect of owning a ‘local’ brand new car.


For the low-income households in Eswatini, owning a home with a title deed in the suburbs of the country’s cities and towns is just an impossibility.

The only option is to save a little bit of money to secure some land on Swazi Nation Land where the rest of us ordinary people have a chance of owning a home. However, try going to a bank for finance to build your home, the banks give you a reality check. You soon realise that only civil servants qualify for rural home loans, and the rest of us have to hustle between different private saving schemes to come up with money to finance our rural home projects.


Even when applying for a rural home loan from the country’s Building Society, the ordinary person has to be backed by their employer otherwise they do not qualify for anything! On the other hand, rent and the general cost of living keeps going up in Eswatini.


The Swaziland National Housing Board (SNBH) has a mandate to deliver affordable housing solutions to lower and middle income earners, yet their rent keeps going up by crazy amounts (15 per cent this year which was double the average inflation of 6.2 per cent in 2017). Soon the only people who will afford a flat from SNHB will be civil servants and high income earners. After all, government is happy to house its employees anywhere regardless of the true cost.


Confused? The point is, as you may be wondering, there are telltale signs that our economy is not really for the ordinary liSwati, but for the lucky few who enjoy cushy jobs within government, parastatals and the few big private companies. Civil servants are not to be blamed here, the economic structure needs serious changing to serve the interest of you, me and everybody. Does anyone care?

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