An International Monetary Fund delegation closed out a two-week visit to the small southern African kingdom with a harsh appraisal of the government’s progress on getting its finances in order—the IMF’s third negative assessment in a year. The negative report represents a failure for a six-month IMF monitoring programme that hoped to bring about reform in Africa’s last absolute monarchy and help it cope with a financial melt-down that has seen the government nearly run out of cash.
However Swaziland’s finance minister said the IMF targets were unreasonable. Without the IMF’s blessing, international lenders like the World Bank and African Development Bank are unlikely to extend loans to Swaziland.
However civil society and unions have also blamed King Mswati III—who has 13 wives, a penchant for fast cars, luxury palaces and extravagant parties—for the country’s economic woes. In a country where nearly 70 per cent of people live on less than a dollar a day, he has built million-dollar palaces for each of his wives, giving them BMWs, personal staff, and sending them on overseas shopping sprees by private jet. The IMF said it will not consider giving Swaziland another chance to improve its creditworthiness unless the country first carries out key reforms. (AFP)