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STATEMENT BY THE RT HON PRIME MINISTER,

 

DR B.S.S.DLAMINI

 

AT THE SMART PARTNERSHIP REGIONAL DIALOGUE IN LUBOMBO REGION

 

At Lomahasha Inkhundla

 

Thursday 21 June 2012

 

 

JEG Chairman, Honourable Deputy Prime Minister

SMART Cabinet Ministers

SMART Regional Administrator

Distinguished SMART Partners


I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be with you all today, especially since other commitments caused me to be unable to attend last year’s Lubombo Regional Dialogue.

 

It is most encouraging to witness the sustainability of the SMART Partnership programme in our country, supplementing as it does our other forums for open and free dialogue. Whilst the objective of this form of dialogue is common to others, SMART Partnership Dialogue does have its own unique philosophy or in modern parlance – its own brand -, namely the quest for win-win solutions when addressing challenges and seeking to find those solutions that are advantageous to all.

 

And the pursuit of solutions is done in the round table, egalitarian style that we see again today.

 

In so doing, when identifying solutions to challenges, we do seek to avoid what is known as the zero sum scenario where one group’s gain is achieved only through another one’s loss. And a further dimension to SMART Partnership Dialogue is that we do not come to the table with pre-determined solutions, and views that are set in stone. In a mutually respectful setting we seek consensus and a clearly agreed way forward.

 

What is, of course, crucial to the entire SMART Partnership process is that planning is matched by action. It is for that reason that Government’s Performance Targeting and Appraisal Programme for each year seeks to capture as many of the agreed output targets as is practical in order that progress can be monitored as part of the existing quarterly routine.

 

And a further important measure in the process of converting plan to reality is the unpacking of broad strategies into detailed activities. I have observed that the Regional Team has done exactly this, having articulated a substantial number of suggested activities to be carried out in this calendar year. I urge the SMART Partnership Secretariat and relevant Government experts, to work closely with the Regional Team in addressing each of the suggested measures or activities.

 

In last year’s Dialogue, held at Siphofaneni, a number of important issues were raised. Economic growth and prevailing fiscal challenges figured prominently, as did the supply of potable water for home and commercial purposes. The Dialogue also highlighted the need to bring entrepreneurship skills into the schools curriculum.

 

In this short statement I can only cover a selection of topics. One that is extremely important is the introduction of enterprise into the curriculum. Good preparation is all-important with the introduction of a new subject. The curriculum is now being prepared, with the launch expected in just over two years time, at which point we expect to have teacher training completed and teaching materials available. This initiative, combined with the highly effective Junior Achievement project in more than 30 high schools, will go a considerable distance towards creating the stronger entrepreneurial culture that we sorely need.

 

For out-of-school youth, phase three of the roll-out of the Youth Enterprise Fund will provide entrepreneurial training to an increased number of young people, and the establishment of the Club 29 Fund, that you will have read about in yesterday’s Swazi Observer, will help to ease the effect of the present financial resource constraints in the public sector.

 

Potable water supply has been increased through finalization of the Ekukhanyeni (Sithobela) and Hlane water supply schemes. Design work has now been completed for Nkalashane, Makhwekhweti and Sigcaweni schemes.

 

The development of our infrastructure – from water to electricity to roads and bridges - is not only essential to the well-being and standard of living of our people, but is also crucial in the search for national economic growth which in turn provides the financial resources for all these good works.

 

And it is in these – the financial resources – that we, as a Government have encountered our most substantial challenge in the past few years. Attacking the problem from two angles – the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR) and the Economic Recovery Strategy (ERS) – was judged to be the right approach.

 

The Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap was drawn up to resolve a challenge of far greater proportions than most countries would ever face – namely a precipitate fall of more than 50% in the main source of income, in our case, the receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Under the Roadmap, Government froze recruitment, promotions and, of greatest impact, public sector pay levels. It also established a new revenue administration authority that will enhance domestic revenue through improved tax collection and the widening of the tax base through measure such as the recently-launched value-added tax.

 

Our aim in the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap is to reduce the Budget deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014/15 financial year under three pillars – expenditure cuts, revenue increase and public finance management reform. The higher level of SACU revenue for the current year has eased the severe fiscal problems to a degree but words of caution are needed. Firstly, the SACU revenue figure of E7 billion includes a E1 million refund from an earlier year. And secondly the balance figure of E6 billion is merely an estimate. We have, in the recent past, experienced a cruel day of reckoning when SACU estimates were found to have been excessive. We therefore have to be very cautious in our current level of spending and all of us supportive to the vital measure of maintaining the existing wages freeze.

 

To secure a viable economy and adequate public resources we have to achieve a considerably faster rate of economic growth – in short, a higher output of goods and services. The Economic Recovery Strategy is the route to get there. Improving the business climate in the Kingdom and making a reality of our new brand – Swaziland: Africa’s new Promise - we have to deliver the output targets of the new Investor Roadmap which are designed to improve our global competitiveness and attract foreign direct investment, while at the same time providing an enabling environment for local business development, from large- down to micro-scale enterprise.

 

As well as increased output we need to create jobs. Tourism is the largest generator of jobs of any industry in the world, and we, as a country, have much to offer. We need tourism investment and all the ancillary services that feed into a tourism industry, and can start by helping ourselves through conceiving community tourism projects of our own. Such projects have become very popular in the global tourism industry as tourists become increasingly interested in foreign societies and cultures, as well as the pursuit of more eco-friendly holidays.

 

Home grown projects always exhibit a certain durability – perhaps understandably since, by definition there is a greater commitment. In each of the Regional Dialogues, we are asking communities to help identify community tourism sites, collaborate in the development of those sites, and then commit to maintaining them well. This is a win-win scenario since the community gets to keep the revenue. We look forward to hearing views and suggestions on this subject.  

 

Let me conclude by inviting all here today to participate in constructive dialogue that reflects a people working together towards a common goal of reviving our economy. And I urge all on the Government side to do their very best to address the concerns and proposals of those participating today. I wish the gathering a fruitful and harmonious Dialogue.

 

Thank you.

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