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LETTER TO MINISTER OF FINANCE

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Sir,

The budget speech that you presented to the nation was not only a shocker, but it glaringly put into serious question whether the Mandvulo-led government is any better than all the previous governments we have had that drove us into this state of dysfunctionality.

Your background as somebody from the private sector gave some of us hope, but yes it is just hope! Your approach to tackling the liquidity problems that we are facing will determine if indeed our hope was misplaced or not.
There are three primary reasons for taxation and these are:


l To fund government operations; health, education, security, social services etc.
l To redistribute wealth – from the rich to the poor through improved social services.
l To mitigate the negative effects of some consumer products, by subsidizing them.


Simply put, taxation is the price we pay for belonging to a society and in our case the society of Eswatini. As long as you fail to be brutally honest with yourself, there is no hope that we will ever change our self-inflicted cash-flow problems. Before deciding on taxing the poor emaSwati to the bone, you should have:
l Identified where the leakages of our meagre resources are.


l Asked yourself why we should continue having a bloated Cabinet (relative to the population).
l Asked yourself what is the need for the various emabandla who are not cheap but continue to put a strain on the already cash strapped economy.
l Asked yourself, what deliverables and key performance areas are in place for your colleagues in Cabinet and the various emabandla.
l And finally, ask yourself if the ordinary person is getting any value for the tax regime that you are proposing.

 


If you are serious about turning around the fortunes of our country, you need to ask yourself some very uncomfortable questions such as:
l If it was your business, would you continue funding the numerous vanity projects much against advice from experts such as the IMF and the World Bank?
l If it was your business, would you continue to keep a civil service that is bloated, demotivated and downright inefficient? It boggles the mind what you expect the civil servants to do when those within the roads department have no fuel and therefore become idle, or those at Immigration have nothing to do because there are no travel documents/passports to issue, the examples are numerous.


l If it was your business, would you continue to advise that we keep certain people in key positions well beyond the normal retirement age and expect them to deliver modern day solutions?
l If it was your business, would you continue on the trajectory of not embracing the intellectuals that our own government has spent our meagre resources developing, yet being treated with contempt?
l If it was your business, would you be encouraging a situation where there are no minimum entry requirements for important positions such as legislators?
As long as you follow in the footsteps of your predecessors by tip-toeing around the real reasons why we are in this mess, then God Almighty knows that you have failed even before you start your unenviable task of managing our resources, surely you don’t want to join the club of your predecessors who have failed this country and have put us where we are today.


Taxes are an accepted necessity the world over but where the taxpayers get no value for their tax, it is downright criminal. What guarantees do the taxpayers have that the additional tax burden will not be squandered on vanity projects? What guarantees do the taxpayers have that their taxes will go towards their basic needs such as the provision of clean water, drugs in hospitals, improved road infrastructure etc? Minister, don’t be intimidated into justifying the clearly unjustifiable, pursue an agenda of changing the thinking and mindset of your boss and colleagues. Your previous predecessors used the very same reasons you are advancing in your budget speech that the taxpayers’ lives will improve once we all tighten the belts but alas, they continued to spend will-nilly to the detriment of the rest of the nation.
The fundamental question that you and your predecessors skirt around is: why do investors shun away from us when similar sized countries such as Rwanda are attracting at least 20 billion Dollars in FDI this year alone. This could only mean one thing; the owners of capital don’t see us as a trustworthy destination for their money, they see us as a serious risk and unless we tackle that perception, you will continue taxing us to the bone until there is nothing to tax. The heavy taxation approach is just not sustainable and the chickens will soon come home to roost.

Hanger
MHLUME

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