Honourable Deputy Prime Minister

Cabinet Ministers

Principal Secretaries

Members of the media

Good afternoon

Today marks the end of the five-day Cabinet retreat that helped to trigger our collective responsibility towards creating and cementing a path of sustainable growth for the Kingdom. Our intense focus in the past five days reflected on the performance of the previous year and strategizing for the opportunities and challenges to be tackled in the new year.

Cabinet was joined by Principal Secretaries to review the Strategic Roadmap with the view to ensure that all development plans are geared towards addressing the specific growth pillars of both the Roadmap and the National Development Plan.

The over aching objective is to improve the well-being of all EmaSwati and achieve sustained economic growth. Our actions are in tandem with the national goal of tackling poverty, unemployment and attaining financial stability and development.

A synopsis of the previous year indicated that 2019 was a tough year globally recording the lowest global economic growth of the decade. The Southern Africa region recorded the slowest economic growth in Africa.

However, the rapid growth of the digital economy globally presented new opportunities to all economies especially those in developing markets such as Eswatini. The rise of the 4th industrial revolution points to the fact that ICT adoption and promoting technology integration is crucial in the new year and going forward. We are called upon to intensify our efforts of teaching our youth ICT skills to enhance their potential to harness the benefits of the digital economy. The growth of the digital economy is a constant and is here to stay.

The Kingdom strengthened and expanded its bilateral relations with our stakeholders and trade partners led by His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Indlovukazi. We improved relations with major trade partners such as South Africa, India, Taiwan and signed a cooperation agreement with Singapore.

Eswatini’s real GDP growth in 2019 was projected at 1.3%, and in 2020 the projections show a 100% increase to 2.6%.

The unemployment rate stood at 23% and it is projected to reduce slightly to 22.10% in 2020.

Cabinet identified climate change as the main threat facing the world, including Eswatini, as the effects permeate through all our growth interventions. As a result, a decision was taken to infuse it into the five key growth sectors of the Strategic Roadmap under the pillar of Tourism, now to be referred to as Tourism and Environment.

The year 2020 is themed the year of SMEs. Focus is on SME development, especially creating business access to finance and markets, and empowering the youth and women with entrepreneurial skills. Government will intently build strong relations with the private sector, providing the enabling environment to ensure its sustained growth to enhance job creation and innovation. In the course of the retreat we hosted Business Eswatini and the Federation of Eswatini Business Community to share ideas on how to strengthen our cooperation and work together as partners in stimulating economic growth.

This year we will be launching a new State and Business model known as State Business Relations (SBR) to ensure regular, open, structured, timely and detailed information exchange between the State and Business. We expect the business sector to commit to this model for it to be effective. There shouldn’t be a difference between the private and public sector because we are all working towards a similar goal of improving the lives of EmaSwati, and we believe the SBR will remove clutter and any vacuum between State and Business.

We also welcome constructive feedback from the business sector and we will do the same. Government renews its commitment to simplifying the environment for businesses to thrive, ensuring policy certainty and removing barriers and bottlenecks that impede private sector growth. As a result we are setting up a Delivery Unit whose mandate will be to identify and remove all barriers and obstacles that may hamper the attraction of both Foreign Direct and local investments, including the execution of committed Government projects. The objective is to increase chances of all government and investment projects to succeed.

Agriculture remains a key priority for sustained economic growth for the Kingdom in the year 2020. Emphasis is on the adoption of smart and modernized agriculture to mitigate the effects of climate change. A tunnel drip irrigation project is being earmarked for the area around the King Mswati III International Airport to increase vegetable production. 

Government is also intentionally boosting milk production for self sufficiency and export purposes to boost business growth and job creation. The construction of a milk processing plant has been completed and an operator engaged. This has also triggered other local milk producing companies to expand their facilities. Dairy production is expected to create 5000 jobs at full implementation.

ICT is also a key focus area for Government as it provides a viable vehicle to drive economic transformation. In 2019 we rolled-out internet connectivity to 116 peri urban and rural Secondary and High Schools. Through the Ministry of ICT we also delivered connectivity to 14 Tinkhundla centres and 40 health facilities. In 2020, Government will start rolling out the one laptop per child project. A total of 20 rural schools have already been identified and will receive 45 laptops each.

We will be leveraging on our selection as the top five destination to visit in the world by Lonely Planet through an intensified programme of marketing for tourist attraction. In October, Eswatini will participate in the Dubai Expo that will bring together millions of people from around the world to sample tourism products from the over a 100 countries that will participate.  As this is the year of the SMEs, we will collaborate with the private sector to enhance tourism products.

Over the year, Government will heighten the provision of potable water by accelerating national water coverage through investing in bulk water storage and rural water supply.

The year 2020 will be a year of action and we will closely monitor and follow up on the implementation of the Strategic Roadmap. Through the assistance of the European Union we now have an implementation framework for the Strategic Roadmap. It aims to improve the implementation process and achieve Roadmap outcomes. Performance agreements will be drawn with Ministers and Principal Secretaries and a balanced scorecard will be introduced in April to measure the performance of Ministers and Principal Secretaries. The Balanced scorecards will give the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister an oversight of what Ministries are reporting to Parliament and synchronise with quarterly reports.

As we venture into the activities of the new year, may I appreciate the cooperation enjoyed by the three arms of Government over the past year. We are looking forward to another year of working in harmony in the execution of our duties.

We live in a world where perceptions, more often than not, override reality. As we embark on a national building exercise, it is important that we develop a positive profile for the country and close the gap between the pervasive negative perceptions and the reality on the ground. Government is establishing a reputation management process that seeks to position Eswatini as the destination for peace and stability growth and innovation.

At the beginning of the retreat on Monday, I did inform Cabinet and Principal Secretaries that we owe it to our families and all emaSwati to deliver the transformation that even we ourselves so desire to see in the Kingdom. That includes having an efficient public service, improving access to affordable quality healthcare and providing predictable and consistent energy supply to the investor community and to all emaSwati.  

But most importantly, it is to ensure that we build an environment in which Emaswati can be healthy, happy and inspired.

We are all waiting in anticipation and excitement for the direction we will get from His Majesty King Mswati III when delivering the Speech from the Throne on January 31. For the Bible tells us in the book of Proverbs 29 verse 1, “when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice.”

May I seize this opportunity to address the current misinformation about visa applications to enter the territory of the People’s Republic of China, which is unfortunate, even after Government had issued a statement through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. I want to put across the following;

  1. I reiterate the position of the Government of Eswatini contained in the aforementioned statement that there is no cause for alarm and there is irrefutable information that only application procedures for visa to travel to China have been altered for EmaSwati. As a result, the only visa centre where EmaSwati should apply is indicated to be the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria only and not Sandton or elsewhere.
  2. I discourage all speculative positions that have been adopted and floated as the reasons that have caused this change in procedure, as each sovereign nation reserves the right to execute its public mandate the way it sees fit without fear or favour or prejudice.

The Government remains committed to serve the citizens of Eswatini and maintain an active interest in the matter.

Thank you.

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