Swaziland’s Budget: One Rich(er) King and the Lowest Life Expectancy in the World

March 15, 2012

As just about anyone can tell you, Swaziland — despite its physical beauty — is not a healthy country. No free and fair political activity is permitted. Those perceived to be opponents of the king and Swazi authorities are routinely harassed and intimidated. And even those who simply perform their functions as these are intended find themselves the victims of persecution, as was demonstrated last year when Judge Thomas Masuku was dismissed from the High Court simply for carrying out his functions in a manner that honoured his judicial role — independently, impartially, without fear or favour.  The financial and judicial crisis which came to the fore in 2011 were only the most recent symptoms of a desperately ill society.

Metaphor aside, Swazi citizens literally suffer some of the worst levels of health in the world. As Swaziland’s own Minister of Finance, Majozi Sithole, noted in presenting the budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year, over 60% of the population lives in poverty, a quarter of all adults are estimated to have HIV/AIDS, the incidence of TB is the highest and average life expectancy at birth is the lowest in the world.

You would think then that a greater portion of the budget would be reserved for addressing the health conditions of Swazi citizens. But you would be wrong. Real increases in budgetary allocations for the year 2012/13 were reserved for the king, his family and the maintenance of their palaces. They already live very luxurious lifestyles. Their gain is at the expense of those in most desperate need — an allocation that can only be described as . . . sick. To read SALC’s letter expressing concern at this state of affairs, see below.

15 March 2012

 

 

Dear Madam,

 

RE:      The critical health implications of Swaziland’s budgetary allocations

 for fiscal year 2012/13

 

We write to draw your attention to the budgetary allocations made by Swaziland for the 2012/13 fiscal year, the pernicious impact such allocations have for the health of the inhabitants of Swaziland, a country said to have the highest HIV prevalence in the world, and the extent to which these allocations violate Swaziland’s regional and international human rights commitments.

 

On the 16th of February 2012 Swaziland’s Minister of Finance, Honourable Majozi Sithole, presented the National Budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year which he called the year of fiscal discipline, accelerating economic growth and protection for the vulnerable. He identified a number of challenges which included the need to protect the vulnerable and help the poor move out of poverty. He indicated that over 60% of the population lives in poverty, a quarter of all adults are estimated to have HIV/AIDS, the incidence of TB is the highest and average life expectancy at birth is the lowest in the world. He declared that the budget would address these challenges by focusing resources on supporting the vulnerable through higher expenditure on health, education, water and sanitation, as well as social protection.

 

And yet, despite these stated intentions, the budget pledged only E1.1 billion towards health for the 2012/13 year – a reduction of E300million from the previous fiscal year. Far from helping alleviate the chronic health problems of the Swazi people, the recently announced budget will only exacerbate their plight. The total Swazi budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year is E11.9 billion. E210 million of the budget surplus will pay for royal emoluments and a further E250 million is being provided for various royal projects, including the refurbishment of state houses, the maintenance of roads to palaces and royal security training – an increase of 100% from the previous fiscal year allocation of E210 million.

 

An analysis of the health budget allocation reveals that Swaziland has not lived up to its national, regional and international commitments in addressing the incidence of TB and HIV/AIDS. Article 26 of the OAU’s Abuja Declaration on HIV/Aids, TB and other related infectious diseases (Abuja Declaration) requires African states to take all necessary measures to ensure that the needed resources are made available from all sources and that they are efficiently and effectively utilised. The Abuja Declaration pledges a target of allocating at least 15% of national annual budgets to the improvement of the health sector. It further pledges African states to make available the necessary resources for the improvement of comprehensive multi-sectoral responses to health needs and that an appropriate and adequate portion of this amount is put at the disposal of the national commissions/councils for the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and other related infectious diseases.

 

 

The Swazi government has not lived up to their commitments and pledges made in the Abuja Declaration. The Finance minister allocated just 9% of the national budget to the health sector, in violation of article 26 which sets a target of 15% of national budgets for allocation to the ministry of health.  That allocation is particularly inadequate, irrational and injudicious in light of the available resources and the insensitive allocation of nearly half a billion Elangeni for emoluments and infrastructural requirements of the King and his family.

 

At the sub-regional level the Swazi government has failed to live up to provisions of the SADC Protocol on Health. In terms of article 19 of that protocol states parties are enjoined to explore optimal and efficient mechanisms for the allocation, utilisation and monitoring of health resources. Swaziland’s allocation to its health ministry will not meet the needs of Swazi citizens who continue to suffer the vagaries of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

 

At the international level Swaziland has violated the Alma Ata Declaration as well as the WHO Global Health Strategy for all by the year 2000.Under paragraph V of the Alma Ata Declaration governments have a responsibility for the health of their people which can be fulfilled only by the provision of adequate health and social measures. In terms of paragraph VIII, it is necessary for states to exercise political will, to mobilise the country’s resources and to use available resources rationally. It is a serious indictment against the Swazi government that they are spending only 3% of their Gross National Product (GNP) on health, contrary to the accepted international indicator of 5% of GNP as provided by the WHO Global Health Strategy.

 

By chronically underfunding the public health sector, Swaziland is violating the right to health as guaranteed under article 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which provide that states should ensure that their citizens enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health. This may only be achieved if the state uses its available resources efficiently, effectively and rationally.

 

We therefore urge your good offices to direct the Swaziland government to take its regional and international obligations on health delivery seriously and request the Minister of Finance to revise his budget allocations in line with the Abuja Declaration and the WHO Global Health Strategy.

 

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Nicole Fritz,

Director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

 

And yet, despite these stated intentions, the budget pledged only E1.1 billion towards health for the 2012/13 year – a reduction of E300million from the previous fiscal year. Far from helping alleviate the chronic health problems of the Swazi people, the recently announced budget will only exacerbate their plight. The total Swazi budget for the 2012/2013 fiscal year is E11.9 billion. E210 million of the budget surplus will pay for royal emoluments and a further E250 million is being provided for various royal projects, including the refurbishment of state houses, the maintenance of roads to palaces and royal security training – an increase of 100% from the previous fiscal year allocation of E210 million.

 

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