9 March 2017

Swaziland: Swazi PM Overturns Budget Vote

Swaziland's unelected Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has forced members of the Swazi Parliament to overturn their decision to reject the national budget.

He has also forced them to abandon a debate on the contents of the budget in the House of Assembly and instead move discussions straight to committee sittings.

Members of the House had on 1 March 2017 rejected the budget, saying it did not do enough for ordinary people. More than 12 percent of the budget is for defence and security. Additional money is to be spent on the police for 'crowd management services'.

On Tuesday (7 March 2017) they reversed their decision.

Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and the Prime Minister and senior ministers are selected by the King.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Wednesday (8 March 2017) that the Prime Minister 'minced no words' then he told Parliament 'that nothing would be changed in the budget'.

The newspaper, described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a report on media freedom in the kingdom, as a 'pure propaganda machine for the royal family' reported the MPs 'came back to their senses' and allowed passage to the Budget Bill.

There are ongoing concerns about the ways national budgets are made in Swaziland. In a review of the 2016 Swaziland budget, the US State Department found details were missing about how money given to the Royal Family was spent. Also hidden was detailed information about spending on the military, police and correctional services.

The United States undertakes annual reports on 'fiscal transparency' of governments that receive US assistance to 'help ensure US taxpayer money is used appropriately'.

About seven in ten of Swaziland's 1.3 million population live in abject poverty with incomes leas than US$2 a day.

MPs had called for a revised budget to be tabled that addressed the needs for potable clean water; feeder roads networks; community projects; an increase in grants for the elderly and people living with disability; food security and the construction of new health clinics.

The Finance Sessional Committee of the House of Assembly will now ask Government if a supplementary budget to address members of parliament's concerns can be made.

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