MINISTER of Economic Planning and Development Prince Hlangusemphi says the International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not want to cooperate with government.
He said instead of helping the country access funding to revive its economy, the IMF had prevented organisations such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) from giving loans to government. He said the economy was sinking but the IMF did not want to assist the country get funding. The minister was speaking during the ministry’s first quarter performance report on Friday.
He said the IMF highlighted that Swaziland was a risk but did not have grounds to substantiate that. He said the country was not a risk because never in its history had it failed to pay its loans. “Why do they say we are a risk because we have never failed to pay our debts?” he wondered.
Prince Hlangusemphi noted that in some other countries, downsizing of the civil service has not helped. He said instead, the organisation should be coming up with other suggestions such as infrastructure or agriculture development. He said nevertheless he was confident that the economy would recover.
He was asked by Hhukwini MP Mkhululi Dlamini why the economy was facing such challenges when it is so small. In response, the minister said such was caused by the fact that Swaziland was small in size but traded in an open world economy hence, affected by global recession.
He said some of the neighbouring countries had developed to be bigger than Swaziland because they were able to receive financial assistance from leading and reputable international bodies.
“Such does not happen with Swaziland because the country is ranked as middle income and, therefore, forced to be fully dependant on government,” he said.
The minister also said the country’s domestic economic growth for the current year was expected to remain below 1%. He attributed this to global and regional economic developments which have a bearing on the performance of the domestic economy.
He added that the lagged effects of the fiscal crisis had resulted in the accumulation of arrears to the private sector suppliers. This has affected the small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) financials, thereby forcing some of them to close down, leading to job losses.
He said the country was faced with downside risks emanating from among other things, rising inflation rate due to escalating global oil prices, higher domestic food prices due to higher global price of food, as well as a repeat of global recession due to the Euro-zone crisis.
The fiscal crisis, Dlamini said, had also resulted to the downscaling of the capital projects which resulted in the stalling and suspension of some of these. Some of the suspended projects included the rural electrification. Economic growth was also affected by scarcity of fuel provision which affected service provision by government.
SD could be sanctioned – Prince Hlangusemphi
SWAZILAND could be sanctioned if it forcefully retrenched staff in the civil service without negotiating and reaching an agreement with their unions.
This is one of the reasons government has not taken any action in downsizing the civil service as recommended by the IMF.
Minister Prince Hlangusemphi said the country was faced with many international organisations which all had an influence.
He said on the one hand there was the IMF which called for the reduction of the civil service while on the other hand the International Labour Organisation (ILO) was against sending workers home.
Interviewed last Friday, he also echoed what was said by Minister of Public Service Magobatane Mamba last week where he said government was reluctant to implement the Enhanced Voluntary Exit Retirement Scheme (EVERS) now because it could increase the unemployment rate.
Dlamini said retrenching the civil service could result in an increase in crime rate as more people would be unemployed.
MPs snub Minister Ntuthuko again
MINISTER of Public Works and Transport Ntuthuko Dlamini was cleared from a charge of contempt of parliament by the House of Assembly, but it seems the matter is not over.
The minister was in parliament on Friday for debate of the ministry’s first quarter performance report. However, the sitting was unsuccessful as members of the portfolio committee told the minister they were not going to go ahead with the debate.
They wanted proof that he had paid a fine for failing to give evidence that a certain shareholder of the Swaziland National Airways Corporation stopped him from firing the board of directors as tasked by the House of Assembly. Minister Ntuthuko was fined E400.
He tried to reason with the MPs, saying he made four attempts to pay the money with the parliament accounts office but all his efforts failed as they kept on telling him they were waiting for correspondence from the Speaker’s office over the Resolution.
As a result, they refused to accept the money. He told them he had the money even on the day so he was ready to hand it over and the payment processes be made afterwards.
While other MPs acknowledged that the minister was wrong, they suggested that they should go ahead with the debate for the sake of progress and they would deal with the matter later. However, committee chairman Robert Magongo disagreed. He said as chairman, he was not going to let the debate go ahead because they would be setting a wrong precedence.
“We are not supposed to bend just because the minister says he has the money. He had plenty of time to make the payment,” he said, adding that Dlamini should have paid the money at the treasury department as all other government monies were paid there.
The matter emanates from a resolution passed by the House of Assembly that Minister Ntuthuko should fire the Swaziland National Airways Board for embezzling funds. This was uncovered by a select committee assigned to investigate why the minister failed to do so. However, Minister Ntuthuko defied the parliament resolution to fire the board.
The public works minister said a certain shareholder refused to have the board fired. When the MPs wanted proof of that, he failed to produce it hence the fine, which he had not paid at least until last Friday.
The ministry’s business in parliament was boycotted since then.
As the debate of the ministry’s first quarter report was about to start, Nkhaba MP Enoch Dlamini asked if the minister had paid the fine. He said they must have proof that he had paid the fine before they continued with the ministry’s business.
The chairman asked that they be excused while they made a decision on the matter, after which he called for the debate to adjourn.
I don’t hate Ntuthuko – MP Magongo
MOTSHANE MP Robert Magongo, who is also chairperson of the portfolio committee of the ministry of public works and transport, says he does not hate Minister Ntuthuko Dlamini.
He said he had nothing against him either save for that they often had differences in their work. He said this during the ministry’s portfolio sitting when he made an introduction as they were about to start the debate. “I do not hate this minister and have nothing against him. I think I should just make that clear to everyone. It’s just that the minister and I do not see-eye-to-eye at times but that does not mean I have something against him,” he said.
The minister and MP Magongo have had public spats in the past. Recently, they were engaged in a verbal showdown over the SADC drivers’ licences, which the ministry delayed implementing. MP Magongo reportedly called upon the minister to resign from his position while on the other hand Minister Dlamini implored voters at the Motshane constituency to vote Magongo out as their representative in the forthcoming elections.
Sometime last year, the minister told parliament that he was having a tough time working with Magongo as chairman of the portfolio committee of his ministry. In response, MP Magongo said complaining in parliament when he (Magongo) was not present was a clear sign that the minister was not a credible person. He said the minister was not fit for his position and if it were for him he should be sent home.
A prayer for under fire minister
LOBAMBA MP Majahodvwa Khumalo made a personal prayer for Minister Ntuthuko Dlamini that he may have a change of heart and take his work seriously.
MP Khumalo was asked to close the portfolio debate in prayer. He prayed that God helped the minister do things with utmost diligence and also takes his work seriously. MPs were giggling as the MP prayed. The prayer did not go down well with the minister as he asked at the end, “what sort of prayer is this?”