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E1.7BN NEW PARLY LOAN HANDLED AT PRESIDENTIAL LEVEL

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mfanukhona@times.co.sz

 

MBABANE – The financing of a new Parliament at a value of E1.7 billion was handled at presidential level by India and Eswatini in 2018, the Times SUNDAY can reveal. 

In a communiqué meant for the people of India, which has been seen by this newspaper, President of India Ram Nath Kovind told a joint sitting of both chambers in Eswatini that his country would support construction of a new Parliament.

The president, the first foreign Head of State to address the Eswatini Parliament, told MPs of the 10th Parliament that India would offer both technical and financial assistance to emaSwati to build the new august House.

There have been concerted efforts, mainly behind the scenes, by certain members of Parliament to object to the E1.7 billion loan for the construction of the new Parliament on the grounds that COVID-19 had reversed a lot of the country’s gains, and the country had not yet recovered from its economic abyss. 

 

unfavourable

The MPs, who later approved the loan from EXIM Bank of India with strings attached, had complained that the line of credit provided to Eswatini was unfavourable to the local economy because the conditions were clear that 66 per cent of building material should be sourced from India.  

Prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs in India, the communiqué indicates that President Kovind’s declaration of support for the construction of the new Parliament was warmly received by ‘members of Parliament’. This refers to MPs of the 10th Parliament.

It has been established that the MPs of the then chambers gave the president an impression that they were approving of the loan such that an agreement between the two countries was reportedly signed. 

Formalising the agreement, a Government Gazette Extraordinary was issued, authorising the minister of finance to enter into an agreement with the lender for the purpose of raising a loan not exceeding US$108 280 000, the equivalent of E1.75 billion, from the Export-Import Bank of India to finance the project upon the terms and conditions specified in this Act and agreement.

 

commended

The Export-Import Bank of India is 100 per cent owned by the government. 

Meanwhile, the India Government pointed out in the document that President Kovind further commended Eswatini MPs for their efforts in advancing His Majesty King Mswati III’s transformation of the kingdom into a developed country by 2022. 

He also promised that India would provide all support and assistance to the kingdom through the Eswatini Parliament to ensure conversion of what he described as a noble vision into reality.

Maphalaleni MP Mabulala Maseko confirmed that President Kovind assured the country that his government would offer financial support for the construction of the new Parliament. MP Maseko, the Chairman of the Joint House Committee, said he was present when the Head of State made the undertaking.

He said the president also listed a number of projects that India undertook to finance in the country. The MP said the current Parliament building is presently dilapidated and part of its roof is leaky because it was constructed before the country attained independence in 1968. 

 

renovation

MP Maseko mentioned that a lot of money was being spent on renovation of the current building. 

“During official State opening of Parliament, a lot of money goes to renovations of the building, either we redo the roof or attend to electrical faults,” he said.

He said Lesotho had a magnificent Parliament yet Eswatini was ahead of that country in terms of economic standing. The Maphalaleni MP said he was aware that the country’s financial standing was unfavourable for gigantic works because of COVID-19, but the pandemic should not stop the country from moving forward. 

“There’s life post-COVID-19,” he said.  

Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi said he was indisposed when the president of India addressed the Joint Sitting.

Deputy Senate President Ndumiso Mfanukhona Mdluli said he was present when the MPs expressed approval of the loan.

 

nothing sinister

“There’s nothing sinister about it. We, as MPs of the 10th Parliament, did not object to it. The new Parliament will help us a lot. I thank my colleagues in the House of Assembly for approving the loan. Let me make it clear that I speak in my capacity as a senator who attended the April 2018 Joint Sitting, which was addressed by the President of India,” said the deputy senate president. 

Thuli Dladla, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said she could not accurately recall the Joint Sitting as she was probably out of the country, but submissions by some legislators who are still in Parliament pointed to the truth that the president might have mentioned the issue.

It is stated in the document that during the State visit of the president in April 2018, he announced many projects, which included – 

l Line of credit of E1.7 billion (US$ 108.28 million) extending technical and financial support for construction of the new Parliament building of Eswatini; 

Line of credit of E160.26 million (US$10.4 million) for establishing Disaster Recovery Data Centre at the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP), which itself was built under an earlier line of credit extended by India to Eswatini; 

Cash grant of E15.41 million (US$1 million) to the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA); 

Donation of 700 tonnes of rice and 300 tonnes of beans for the NDMA (National Disaster Management Agency);

Medicine and medical equipment worth E46.23 million (US$3 million); 

Grant assistance of E6.14 million (US$400 000) for construction of irrigation infrastructure in Lubuyane in the Hhohho region (underway after the release of first instalment of E3 million (US$ 200 000) in October 2019 and second and final instalment of E3 million (US$200 000) released on August 7, 2020). 

It must be said that two bilateral agreements were formalised in the presence of President Kovind and His Majesty the King. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Health Sector and an Agreement for exemption of visas for holders of diplomatic/service passports. 

In a special ceremony, The King conferred the highest honour of Eswatini, the Order of the Lion, on President Kovind, in recognition of the fact that he was the first Indian Head of State to visit the Kingdom, and for acknowledging the contributions made by India in advancing Eswatini’s (Swaziland’s) development agenda. 

According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, His Majesty expressed confidence that President Kovind’s visit would set India-Eswatini relations on a new trajectory. 

 

charitable initiatives

The president’s wife, Savita Kovind, made a donation of 500 blankets to Philani Maswati Charity Organisation and Khulisa Umntfwana Project, two charitable initiatives patronised by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, for helping orphaned children and destitute elderly people in the Kingdom. 

It was the King who received this donation on behalf of Her Majesty. On another note, President Kovind inaugurated the Information Technology Centre located in the Royal Science & Technology Park (RSTP). 

The IT Centre was built through a concessional credit-line of E308 million (US$20 million), at the current exchange rate, from the Government of India to the Government of Eswatini. 

The centre hosts the country’s National Data Centre and provides high-quality training and education in IT. 

President Kovind expressed his satisfaction at the successful completion of the Indian project in the RSTP, and announced that India would provide Eswatini a new credit-line of E160.26 million (US$10.4 million) to help establish a Disaster Recovery Site for the National Data Centre housed within the RSTP.

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