Swaziland: Pay Costs to Soar at Govt Offices

The cost of salaries at the offices of Swaziland government ministers are set to soar from this year - in some cases increasing more than four fold.

This is despite pleas from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the government should reduce its wage bills to help save the kingdom's economy which is in free fall.

The cost of personnel in the various offices of government ministers are contained in the budget estimates for the coming year and are revealed here for the first time.

No details of the reasons for the huge increases are given, but they suggest that either substantial pay rises are on the cards for people already working in the offices or that large numbers of new jobs are to be created in a public service already criticised as being one of the most bloated in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

The biggest percentage increase is in the Ministry of Public Service where salaries in the minister's office are set to increase four-and-a-half -fold from E0.79 million last year to E3.59 million in 2013 / 14. Another big winner is the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs which goes up more than four-fold from E0.80 million last year to E3.5 million in 2013 / 14.

Among the ministries with personnel costs rising more than three times are the Deputy Prime Minister's Office, the Tinkhundla Administration and Development office and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The increased salaries relate to at least 20 different ministries and are for people working as administrators in the government minister's office, the money does not go to people who work in jobs on the front line delivering services.

All the increases in personnel costs are set to continue beyond 2013, the date of the next national election, meaning they are not connected to the massive pay outs government ministers will receive when the present parliament comes to an end later this year.

In his budget speech in February, Finance Minister Majozi Sithole said public sector wages and salaries would increase by E600 million compared to last year.

This was a deliberate snub to the IMF which has been trying to help Swaziland out of the financial mess created over the past decade by governments, hand-picked by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. The IMF feels too much money is spent on public sector salaries and unnecessary capital projects such as the king's pet, the construction of Sikhuphe International airport, and not enough has gone to help poor and disadvantaged people.

Nearly seven in ten of King Mswati's subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

In the budget, Sithole announced elderly people would only get an increase of E20 per month in their subsistence grant, taking it up to E220.

Hidden in the budget, but unannounced by the government, was the information that the Swazi Royal Family 'royal emoluments and the civil list' rose to E238 million for the year 2013 / 14, from E210,000 in the previous year, despite a claim made earlier that the king would not increase his take from the budget, in solidarity with those of his subjects who were suffering because of the financial meltdown.

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