Saturday, April 09, 2011

swaziland inequality

The Swazi economy has all but collapsed - with devastating consequences for the poor. Swaziland is Southern Africa's second-smallest economy after Lesotho. Swaziland ranks as one of the most unequal societies in the world. The royal family consumes about 5 per cent of the annual budget while 70 per cent of Swazis live below the poverty line of US$1 per day. This reality exists despite the fact that Swaziland qualifies as a middle-income state due to a flattering per capita GDP. Swaziland is therefore not poor in strict economic terms. However, the country's glaringly skewed politics of distribution certainly are. The Swazi economy is therefore characterised by massive concentration in the hands of a tiny minority with land in the hands of a few (largely members of the royal family who are unable to use it for productive purposes). The economy is largely agro-based, with semi-feudal relations frustrating its development potential, as the majority produce for their landlords rather than for national or for their own benefit.

At the time of Swaziland's independence in 1968, the royal minority inherited a highly skewed colonial economy. The edges of the skewed nature of the economy were further sharpened through a royal 'bourgeoisification' process, with the establishment of a 'royal fund' through the vehicles of Tibiyo and Tisuka TakaNgwane. To date, royalties from mining as well as land held by the monarchy for the Swazi nation (utilised by the major sugar and forestry estates), accrue to the royal family through these institutions, and not to the state, lesser still to the people. This system is designed to ensure that the parasitic royal family maintains their huge, highly unproductive and unfettered share from government in the form of the Swazi National Treasury (SNT), an entity separate from central treasury. There has been the deliberate design of the Tinkhundla royal regime to monopolise national resources and allocate these for their own narrow interests, to the exclusion of the suffering majority of the people.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Swazi economy is characterised by huge unequal distribution of income and living conditions, regional disparities in income and living conditions, skewed property income and land ownership, inequality in upward mobility and favouritism in social opportunities, unequal access to safe and clean water and sanitation facilities, massive rural and urban poverty and landlessness.

The enormity of the current crisis is spoken for when one looks at the facts surrounding Swaziland: life expectancy is now at 31.88 years, 30 per cent of all children are orphaned or vulnerable due to living with a critically ill parent, only 6 per cent of the national budget is allocated to health and 2.4 per cent to social services, 69 per cent of the population live in extreme poverty, 25 per cent of the population live on food aid donations and unemployment is estimated at over 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, the king has an estimated personal fortune of US$200 million. The Swazi monarchy is estimated to be wealthier than the country as a whole. The health and education budget for members of the royal family using expensive institutions outside the country continues to skyrocket, whilst education and health facilities in the country continue to deteriorate and collapse. Social expenditure, national development and the interests of ordinary people suffered as royal projects such as state-of-the-art royal villas and clinics received priority funding. This explains the deepening inequalities in income and opportunities for the poor majority, particularly for women and those living in rural areas.

For a long time, the royal regime openly flirted with the apartheid regime, benefitting from the sanctions against apartheid South Africa and acting as a sanctions buster, collaborating with the Pretoria regime and other such global forces. Swaziland was seen as an alternative destination, with apartheid South Africa products being branded as originating from Swaziland.

from here

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