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IT’S 2022 IN 11 MONTHS!

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The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely derailed Eswatini’s development path. In less than 12 months, Eswatini’s National Development Strategy (NDS) comes to an end and the country is expected to have achieved a standard of living akin to First World nations, that is, Vision 2022. 

Unfortunately, even with the few strides the country has managed to gain in its development journey since 1997, once the pandemic has caused it damage and gone, Eswatini will be left in a big financial hole and social strife. Thanks to our ill-prepared government, hopeless politicians, and weak economic system, Eswatini will regress substantially in her fight against poverty.

How did Eswatini get to this dire health and economic situation, when in the last decade our government has been collecting more money from the economy and expanding the size of government in the name of public service delivery? 

When the economy was growing in the 1980s, leading to the 1990s, government drew up a 25-year development vision through the NDS and came up among other things, The Millennium Projects that would end up bankrupting the economy. Despite the economy being taxed to the bone in recent years, government never thought of putting money aside for rainy days. Even with its huge weight on the economy, as it has many investments under the portfolio of many parastatals, it still finds itself in a deep fiscal crisis. The only option to save government and the rest of the economy now is to acquire more and more debt and hope that the rubbles of the private sector that will remain post COVID-19 will be able to foot the country’s debt bill. 

The sad path of this COVID-19 pandemic is not that it was unpredictable so that it took us all by surprise but that Eswatini once had money and our government chose to blow it away and dug the economy into the gutter, which is now impossible to come out of. It’s hard to forget the vacations that government officials spent the last recent years enjoying, the millions of Emalangeni wasted on immaculate bathrooms for the monstrosity down the valley, the looting on capital projects, and so on. Now the very same government cannot provide basic aspirin in our public hospitals. 

Crying

The personal protective equipment (PPE) that the health sector has been crying for is simply a huge ask to our defunct and bankrupt government. Government is on lockdown and the general public has been left out in the cold to fend for itself while they are expected to cough up taxes here and there to the very same good for nothing administration.

Government must get one thing clear: one of its greatest assets is its people. Without deliberate investment in its people through the social sector, all the colourful buildings, continuous construction of highways amount to nothing when social and economic shocks hit Eswatini. 

The billions spent on the KM III International Airport and the Five Star Hotel and Convention Centre could have done wonders for our health and education sectors. But it decided to approach Eswatini’s development in reverse, starting with the trinkets that should have been kept for the last mile to 2022. Government should have focused first on the critical basics such as health, education, and decent work for all.

Someone has to hit the reset button on the Eswatini economy. The way government has been operating is simply not sustainable. Eswatini needs a complete overhaul of government, particular the size and how public funds get spent in the economy. 

Prioritise

The upcoming national budget, which will be set for 2021/22, needs to set the tone for a new way of doing things as well as prioritise investments in the social and economic sectors that will bring the greatest benefit to all emaSwati. 

Now, let us not allow government waste a perfect crisis, the time for change is now and COVID-19 has proven on all spheres that it has a lot to do to make things right for the economy. And lastly, let COVID-19 be a lesson to the entire nation that people need to vote for qualified and credible people into Parliament, who can represent the public’s interests rather than spending too much focus on circulars that remunerate them for warming up Parliament seats while the economy sinks into a hole. Even within government, the time for keeping incompetent bureaucrats is over. We need to set a higher standard for our darling civil servants. The year 2022 is upon us and government needs to salvage this few 11 months for setting up Eswatini to do better.

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: COVID-19 pandemic
Is desperation creeping in among emaSwati because of the COVID-19 pandemic?