Saturday, December 18, 2010

swaziland outlook bleak

The Swazi government recently conceded that unemployment was running at 40 percent, despite doggedly maintaining for many years that it was 26 percent, but economists expect this to rise, pushing up already high poverty levels - about two-thirds of Swazis live in chronic poverty.

Government has announced a reduction of 7,000 public service jobs in 2011 but the impact will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. According to the government's Central Statistics Office, one employed person supports, on average, 10 others.

Swaziland has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate - 26.1 percent – so one in four Swazis between the ages of 15 and 49 is living with the virus, and about half of those infected, or 110 000, are on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which can prolong a person’s life. The budget for HIV/AIDS would be cut by 10 percent in 2011.

Subsistence farmers on communal Swazi Nation Land, where about 80 percent of the country's one million population reside, use government tractors for ploughing, but government fuel depots have run dry and the machines are standing idle."This is planting season. It is December now, and for six weeks we have not been able to get seeds in the ground," farmer in the central Manzini region, told IRIN.

However, government spending on non-essential programmes has not been cut. A recent request by the finance minister for an additional $50 million towards the building of an international airport was approved by parliament and the airport's final cost is expected to be in the region of $1 billion. Cabinet officials have also awarded themselves substantial pay rises, and have extended retirement benefits to former government officials.

" more business shut and public sector workers are laid off, it is inevitable that more people will join the ranks of the poor." Amos Ndwandwe, an economist at a bank in the capital, Mbabane, explained

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