- Officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded a mission tour in Swaziland. While most countries in Africa record significant economic progress this year, Swaziland has its GDP fallen by 2 percent, which is slightly worse than the 2005 level.
"Economic growth in Swaziland has weakened over the past decade," the IMF mission said.
In 2005, Swaziland experienced serious drought which had taken great toll on the economy. However, following a government increase in salaries, the retail and construction sectors had picked up.
Experts have advised the Swaziland government to cut the size of the civil servants to 10,000 if it wants to control the huge civil wage bill and provide effective services to all its citizens. This has been draining over 60 percent of the country's total revenue.
The IMF team was said to have registered its disappointment over Swaziland's failure to abide by the expertise advice to reduce the size of the workforce. The Swazi Finance Minister Majozi Sithole concurred that the wage bill was getting out of hand.
"We have explained ourselves to the IMF team and we do accept that the wage bill needs to be controlled," Mr Sithole said.
Permanent Secretary of Public Service and Information, Victor Ndlangamandla, advised the Swazi government to create safety nets for those employees who will lose their jobs.
"Taking 10,000 off their jobs would be a social genocide. What we need to do is to identify alternative service delivery mechanism, like outsourcing, commercialisation and privatisation of certain services," Mr Ndlangamandla told the Swazi 'Observer.' "For instance, if 10 income tax officials were to be retrenched, we need to devise a strategy to collect the tax efficiently without crippling the system," he said.
The IMF also predicted that by the year's end, inflation will rise to 5.4 percent mainly because of the continuing rise in food prices.
"Despite the depreciation of the rand, the external current account surplus declined from 3.1 percent of GDP in 2005 to an estimated 1.6 percent in 2006, as export growth slowed in the face of the elimination of textile quotas."
The IMF asked Swaziland's government to improve its macroeconomic outlook, accelerate growth and make progress towards poverty reduction. Swaziland was given the challenges to restore fiscal sustainability, external competitiveness as well as improves its investment climate.
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