Swaziland: Flights of Fancy At King's Airport

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analysis

Also in November 2013, SWACAA confirmed that the Swazi Government was ready to recreate the RSNAC and would set about purchasing a 100-seater jet, at a cost estimated by the Times of Swaziland of E700 million (US$70 million). This compares to the E125 million budgeted for free primary school education in Swaziland this year. It is not clear where the money to buy the aircraft would come from.

If Dube is correct and RSNAC is set to fly to 10 destinations, the airline would probably need a minimum of 10 aircraft to service the routes. For that to happen, assuming that the estimated cost of the aircraft is accurate, Swaziland would have to spend about E7 billion on aircraft. Such a sum of money would bankrupt the kingdom. To put the cost in context earlier this week the Central Bank of Swaziland announced that the kingdom's Gross Official Reserves were E8.24 billion at the month ended November 2013.

Media reports in Swaziland suggest the cost of Sikhuphe has been about E3 billion so far from an initial budget of E500 million.

As long ago as 2003, the International Monetary Fund said Sikhuphe should not be built because it would divert funds away from much needed projects to fight poverty in Swaziland. About seven in ten of King Mswati's 1.3 million subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 per day.

There is no obvious need for the new airport. Major airports already exist less than an hour's flying time away in South Africa with connecting routes to Swaziland and there is no reason to suspect passengers would want to use the airport at Sikhuphe as an alternative.

Swaziland's present airport at Matsapha only carries about 70,000 passengers a year.

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