The Swaziland budget announced last week will do nothing to help relieve poverty in the kingdom, economist Christopher Fakudze has said.
There will be no reach out to the poor and hungry.
'Approximately 68 percent of people in the country live below poverty thresholds,' Fakudze said.
'One expected a budget that ought to see food security or agriculture as one of the top priorities,' he said, but instead food security came fifth in the priorities of Finance Minister Majozi Sithole. This was a long way behind education and health.
Fakudze, who was quoted in an analysis of the budget, published in the Swazi Observer newspaper, said the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) resolved to have its member states contribute at least 10 percent of their total budgets to agriculture, but Swaziland was failing to honour this commitment.
According to the report Poverty in a Decade of Slow Economic Growth: Swaziland in the 2000s published by Swazi Ministry of Economic Planning and Development in 2011 there 641,000 people in poverty in Swaziland, living in households an income of less than E461 (US$65) per month, per adult: or US$2 per day. There are about 1.1 million people living in Swaziland.
A total of 115,712 people face food shortages in 2012/2013, according to the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee. The number has increased by 88,511 from 2011.
Fakudze said in Swaziland measures to achieve food security were 'more urgent and more important than any other sectors.'
Fakudze said it was not clear in the budget speech how government would seek to make direct interventions to transform Swazi agriculture from subsistence farming to high productive commercialised farming enterprises.
He added that the government had not said how it would bring all unused land (and all factors of production) to full production, through farmer support and development programmes.
He said, 'The agriculture sector stays the same as previous years and as such, will render the country food insecure in years to come.'
He added, 'A food insecure country will never realise the Millennium Development Goal 1 which primarily aims at reducing poverty and hunger by 2015.'