The momentum gained by donors in 2011 to support the Swaziland government's reform agenda, in particular the objectives of its Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap, has effectively been thwarted by the International Monetary Fund's decision to withdraw support for the recovery programmes.
Factors inhibiting reform are detailed as government's weaknesses in public financial management, a lack of pro-poor budgeting and a lack of commitment to comprehensive and sustainable governance reforms, among others.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has followed suit, effectively underscoring the lack of confidence in Swaziland's operative implementation of agreed reforms, as well as its unwillingness to genuinely engage with development partners on reform requisites. This includes the otherwise sensitive matters of political and governance improvements.
The AfDB and the IMF are part of 'The Quartet', which also comprises the South African Treasury and the World Bank, who are responsible for monitoring the country's reform process.
Notably, South Africa's obligation under the Quarter's division of labour is underlined as fostering political dialogue and encouraging political reform. The idea behind the Quartet's division of labour was to help devise and support a truly comprehensive reform programme that ushers the country into stability in the longer term. Swaziland's undiversified economy; its unhealthy dependence on Southern African Customs Union (SACU) receipts; an entrenched culture of unaccountable expenditure; and its categorization as a middle-income country have affected its ability to sufficiently support its budget, including in crucial areas of health, education and livelihood empowerment.
The unavailability of resources needed to accelerate economic recovery in the face of dwindling donor support makes Swaziland vulnerable to both development and humanitarian crises. This is unless relations with donors change or its 'look East and elsewhere' policy, particularly relations with the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan and Equatorial Guinea, fills the donor vacuum.
Of the four institutions in the Quartet, the South African government, whose responsibility remains relevant to encouraging seemingly impossible political reforms, appears to be the last man standing. The foregoing has dire consequences for the country's economic resilience, future development agenda and political stability in the coming months, especially ahead of its no-party parliamentary elections in 2013.
Swaziland's poor track record and unconvincing commitment in implementing reforms; the lack of recognition by the government that 'good governance' is key to the success of economic reform programmes; and the fact that the latter focuses not only on economic institutions but also on political structures, are some of the many reasons for dwindling donor support. Exactly what can be used to anchor dialogue in this direction is an apparent challenge that may see Swaziland permanently characterised by periods of liquidity crises oscillating between bad and worse.
South Africa's role in Swaziland will increasingly come under the spotlight, as will the elusive status of its US$ 300 million loan offer to Swaziland.