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EZULWINI – You would swear parliamentarians were having a moment of silence when an officer from the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development detailed how poorly government was managing the Eswatini economy.

The officer said there was lack of monitoring of government resources, high corruption in ministries which had made service delivery impossible, and uncontrolled spending, which had affected some sectors of the economy. During the presentation, the parliamentarians would simply squirm in their chairs, nod in agreement or show faces of exasperation when Principal Planning Officer in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, Siphiwe Dlamini, detailed to them that transforming the lives of people would remain a dream because government was poorly managing the economy. Dlamini was speaking during the ongoing induction conference for the 12th Parliament yesterday. She was taking the parliamentarians through the 2023 to 2026 National Development Strategy.


Dlamini stated that the plan clearly stated that good governance was the anchor of economic recovery. “It is impossible to transform people’s lives if the economy is not performing well,” she said. She started by presenting figures to put things into perspective. She noted that the numbers did not give a good picture of the country. Dlamini said the National Development Plan was aimed at changing the picture of the country. She told the MPs that, according to the figures, the population of the country was 1.1 million and its growth was at 0.7 per cent, with a majority being the youth.

Dlamini added that 33 per cent of the population was unemployed. This group, Dlamini said, was formed by the youth, which is 58 per cent of the polulation. She noted that these statistics were as per the 2021 Labour Survey. The officer added that 69 per cent of the population had access to clean water. She noted that the Human Capital Index was 37 per cent. Dlamini said the lower figures of the human index reflected the need for the government to invest more in education and health.

“Not just education but quality education, that will make them productive when they reach productive ages,” she said. Dlamini stated that it was unfortunate that the current education system was not good enough, because it was providing opportunities for white-collar jobs, yet that sector was saturated. She said there was need to bring in more skills. She recalled that the lockdown that was introduced due to COVID-19 cost a lot of people, who had white collar jobs, their employment, while only those with technical and vocational skills thrived.

“That showed that having a life skill is very important in life and for the economy, for the good production of goods and services,” she said.
The officer said when they were drafting the National Development Plan, they assessed the situation in the country and in government. She said they also assessed what needed to be done to develop the lives of the public.

Dlamini said the plan looked at the management of the economy. She mentioned that the assessment showed that the country’s economy was poorly managed. “It is for that reason that it is growing below average, and government is facing a fiscal crisis,” she said. Dlamini told the MPs that it had been announced that the country would receive a lot of money from regional economic bodies. Noteworthy, the country received the highest Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts of E11 billion.


“Can you see or feel the money?” she asked. The house was as quiet as a graveyard when she posed the question. Dlamini further said that was the problem in government that needed to be addressed. She urge the parliamentarians, who would be heading the Portfolio Committee of Finance, to share more information on the subject on the financial situation in government ‘because it does not look good’. She said with that problem at hand, a lot of government money was spent on operations, while less was left for investment, hence a number of projects were suffering in the process.
She said education and health were suffering in the process, because if government did not have money, it became difficult to support these sectors. The officer stated that these two sectors were consumptive in nature. As a result, the quality of education dropped and parents enrolled their children in learning institutions outside the country.

“If government is not in a good financial state, it will be difficult to support the education and health sectors,” she said. Secondly, she decried the quality of expenditure by government. Dlamini said government, as the main driver of the economy, had a lot of parastatals. She wondered what government gained by having the many parastatals. “Does government really need these parastatals whose personal costs and operations heavily rely on the broke government?” she questioned.


She said all parastatals received a subvention from government and none of them, in any financial year, had ever returned the leftover of their budget. She said there were no monitoring tools for the parastatals’ budgets and reliance was placed on what they reported. She said if there was a monitoring tool, what remained of the budget would be used to fund more projects. “Whose job is it to monitor that? Government has 19 ministries. Do we need the 19 ministries for government to perform well? What would happen if the ministries could be reduced?” she wondered.

Dlamini said she heard that countries with bigger economies than Eswatini, such as Botswana, had 16 ministries. The officer said government was also the driver of the economy, in the sense that most businesses in the private sector were supplied their produce to government.  With the fiscal crisis, government can’t pay these businesses, according to Dlamini. She pointed out that the question was, how were these businesses going to survive if their largest client, which was government, was not paying them and how would they pay taxes, which were a revenue source for government?

Dlamini said government’s poor performance was suffocating the private sector, as a result, it was failing to produce and support the economy. She said for the economy to grow, the private sector needed to be productive. She noted that, of late, government had a high domestic debt, which meant most of government’s loans were sourced from local institutions. Government’s domestic debt is at over E17 billion. The officer said that was a disadvantage for individuals who might be approaching banks for loans, because it would mean they were competing with government and in most cases the financial institutions would prefer government, because of the low risk factor associated with it.

“In that process, if the government has been borrowed a lot of money, there is less left for private businesses.” In addition, Dlamini alleged that political governance was not on track and that government failed to honour promises that were made to the public. She mentioned Goal 16 of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is about promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Dlamini said government was weak when it came to programmes that were meant to reach that SDG.

She added that government was also failing to provide services to its people. She said government needed to improve service delivery, as it was obligated to do so, since the citizens paid taxes. Dlamini went on to say the poverty rate was still high and social protection poorly targeted. According to Dlamini, civil service pensioners were also receiving the elderly grant from government. “Why do they need to compete with those who have never worked?” she asked. The officer said the Deputy Prime Minister’s (DPM) Office needed to relook the criteria and channel government interventions to those who needed them.

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