Swaziland: Budget Gives PM New House

Swaziland is budgeting to build the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement house for E5.5m even though members of parliament rejected the move last year.

The MPs said last year the kingdom was too poor to afford the house. The money is back on the table this year even though Finance Minister Martin Dlamini announced in his budget speech on Thursday (1 March 2018), 'Government spending continues to outpace its ability to raise enough revenues resulting in cash flow challenges and accumulation of arrears.'

Dlamini was not elected to the office of Prime Minister. In Swaziland political parties are banned from taking part in elections and King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch chooses the PM and government ministers.

Dlamini is aged 75 and in poor health. He is widely expected to retire at the next national election due sometime in 2018.

The house in Thembelihle will have four bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.

The house is only part of Dlamini's retirement package. The Financial Circular No 2 of 2013 sets out his benefits. He will receive 80 percent of his final salary until he dies. In 2013 it stood at E617,646 (US$51,700). In Swaziland seven in ten of the estimated 1.1 population have incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

The Swazi taxpayer will contribute the full amount payable to a medical aid scheme of which the Prime Minister is a member. They will provide a house and a vehicle of the same status as the one he has while in office. Dlamini will also 'be afforded security in line with the risk profile as determined by the Commissioner of Police'. He will be provided with a personal assistant.

When the cost of the PM's house was included in the 2017 national budget, MPs protested that the amount was too much and should be frozen to a time when the kingdom could afford it.

Finance Minister Martin Dlamini did not make reference to the PM's house in his budget speech, but he did state that the budget only included 'the most critical expenditure items'.

He increased Value Added Tax (VAT) by 1 percent to 15 percent and said he was exploring the possibility of putting VAT on electricity prices. There is already a 15 percent increase in electricity tariffs due on 1 April 2018. Commentators have said this will have a big effect on the poor. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom said the 'budget robs the poor'.

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