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ESWATINI is quick to emulate South Africa on economic instruments that tax citizens and increase the financial burden on consumers. South Africa increased VAT as of April 1, 2018 and likewise Eswatini followed suit and proposed to increase VAT from 14 per cent to 15 per cent so that it is at par with the mighty South African VAT system.

Now, fuel prices are always higher in South Africa compared to Eswatini, and our government wants to capitalise on that as well to make a quick buck. For Eswatini, fuel tax is quite a considerable source of government revenue and so an increase of E3.20 per litre of petrol or diesel would certainly see fuel tax revenue hitting the E1 billion mark, hence more money for our government. What will become of the people who use public transport every day, commuting to work and school across the country? Some people are working just to have enough money to pay rent and transport. Everything else in terms of food, clothing, healthcare, etc, is not guaranteed.

The money gauging tax policies government has tabled for 2018/19 will simply kick a lot of people to the curb. If you are not a politician, bureaucrat, wealthy businessmen or senior manager of some corporation, then you should be thinking of an exit strategy. What our government is quick to forget is that South Africa is a big economy, and one of Africa’s leading economies. South Africa has the luxury to wiggle around with different tax policies to meet different economic goals. At the same time, while the South African Government takes money from its citizen or consumers in the form of taxes, it is also not shy to give that money back to its citizens.

South Africa affords its citizens old age pensions, child support grants, care dependency grants, disability grants, cutting-edge public hospitals, Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), and a National Student Financial Aid Scheme to cover the cost of studies in public universities.

This is not to say South Africa is without its challenges, it certainly has plenty but at least the citizens in that country have a few guarantees that make their lives a little bit better.
Here in Eswatini, government just takes money from its citizens and businesses and never gives back anything in return. Really, what guarantees do we get from our government?

It always gets into frenzy when it has to pay elderly grants; the European Union has pulled the plug on Free Primary Education, government has no scholarships for tertiary education unless you are a child of a senior government official or you are well-connected within the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. If you are unlucky (God forbid), and become really sick, needing medical specialists and specialised care, our public hospitals will only put you on a drip and start counting down hours to your death. And when people try to start their own businesses to take care of themselves, there are hurdles and obstacles of government red tape to get through. In the process, people still have to grease the powers that be in making sure that their business licences go through.

One thing is guaranteed in Eswatini: government will take your money, blow it, and come back to dig in your pockets for more money to flush down the toilet. We will continue to get more soldiers, warders, and police officers even in the worst of the fiscal crisis.
Really, we have become victims of government spending because it wastes money and we, as taxpayers, have to dig into our pockets to bail out government. The sad part of it is that no matter how much or how high government can keep on increasing taxes, it will continue to spend the money on items that have nothing to do with improving the lives of emaSwati. Where does all the money go?

As a country we are heavily reliant on donor funds to even take care of our basic needs such as health and education. When government has to build roads, it has to look at loans and all kinds of grants to make things happen. So with the increase in taxes and more of our personal incomes being dedicated filling the G-wallet of our cash-strapped government, what guarantee do we have that it will spend that money on the right things that add value to our individual lives? We are tax victims here and something’s got to give. We cannot keep funding a hole that never fills. Government must first put its house in order before demanding more money from workers, businesses and consumers.

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