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STATEMENT BY THE RT HON PRIME MINISTER,

 

DR B.S.S.DLAMINI

 

(Read by the Acting Prime Minister, Senator T.N.Masuku)

 

AT THE SMART PARTNERSHIP REGIONAL DIALOGUE IN MANZINI REGION

 

At LaMghabi Inkhundla

 

Thursday 12 July 2012

 

 

JEG Chairman, Honourable Deputy Prime Minister

SMART Cabinet Ministers

SMART Regional Administrator

Distinguished SMART Partners

I was looking forward very much to participating in this year’s SMART Partnership Regional Dialogue in the Manzini Region. I regret, however, that I am unable to be there since I will be out of the country on official business.

 

The Manzini event comes last, but not least, in the round of Regional Dialogues for 2012 and, indeed, the final Dialogue prior to us all meeting at the National Dialogue next month.

 

And I emphasise the word “participating” since that is the essence of SMART Partnership – a round table discussion on a truly egalitarian basis. The distinguishing features are the readiness of participants to be receptive and open-minded, the preparedness to consider the views of other participants, and the willingness to express opinions and ideas without rancour or bitterness. Respect for each other is also a pre-requisite.

 

The objective? A win win, where consensus is reached on issues that are central to the development of a prosperous and stable society. To be avoided is the zero sum outcome where the gain of one group is the sacrifice of another.

 

It has been truly heartening to observe the extent to which the philosophy of SMART Partnership has been so faithfully observed during the Dialogues of the past few years thus making this forum a worthy addition to the existing indabas that we have in Swazi society.

 

Last year, the Manzini Region Dialogue dealt with the critically important issues of corruption, poverty reduction, climate change and the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR).

 

Corruption remains a pressing concern. During the year one substantial case was brought to court and a number of investigations are nearing completion. There have been capacity challenges and, together with the recent loss of the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, these have slowed progress to a degree. But I must emphasise that Government is fully committed to continuing its anti-corruption drive and, where investigations take a long time, it is because a fair and effective prosecution demands high standards in the gathering of evidence.

 

It is clear that Government’s education programme is having an impact. As communities gain a better understanding of what corruption actually entails, there has followed an increase in the number of cases reported to the Anti-Corruption Commission.

 

The Region supported the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap and this was encouraging for Government since the resolution of a situation of fiscal stringency invariably necessitates bitter-tasting medicine. The ongoing public sector pay freeze is one of the most conspicuous components of the Roadmap and, quite simply, is an essential contributor to a successful restoration of fiscal stability.

 

The establishment of the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) was a further measure in the Roadmap and its launch has enabled us to broaden the tax base with the introduction of the value added tax (VAT). It is also expected that the SRA, as a well-equipped revenue administration authority, will soon ratchet up the level of domestic revenue through a more efficient tax assessment and collection process. The days of extensive tax evasion in our country will soon be over and I encourage all individuals and businesses to ensure, in the first instance, that their tax registration arrangements are in order.

 

Looking back at the 2010 targets, the Region managed a 21% implementation of the Dialogue recommendations which, in retrospect, was a reasonable level of achievement given the fiscal challenges that Government has experienced.

 

We are encouraged that there has been more progress for 2011 in the following areas.

 

Poverty reduction is an objective with very broad dimensions. The measure that has the most immediate impact is the creation of jobs and an income to put food on the table. The thrust in this Region over the past year has been to empower eight communities – Mafutseni, Mangcongco, Mkhiweni, Ludzeludze, Ngwempisi, Mfongwaneni and Mahlangatsha – with sustainable livelihood skills.

 

Climate change was on the agenda, and is there again this year, together with the issue of environmental protection. Government’s aim is to sensitise industries, companies and individuals on the importance of reducing emissions – air and water pollution in particular – and the impact that such reduction will have on the environment. To this end, around 90 bucopho, 13 tindvuna tetinkhundla and 30 Regional Development team members received education on the reducing of emissions and the environmental effect of doing so. The 90 or so bucopho proceeded to disseminate information to constituencies on climate change and environmental protection. Kwaluseni and Ludzeludze tinkhundla conducted clean-up campaigns.

 

Migration and unemployment were further issues raised. As a measure of reducing the migration from rural to urban, new infrastructure such as rural electrification and water harvesting projects, together with the capacitation of rural dwellers in small business skills have given rise to an increase in the establishment of small scale enterprises in the Region. At Luve, for example, chicken sheds have been built and local people employed.

 

Improved infrastructure remains high on the priorities of all the Regions. Following the calls for a fire station and a Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) depot to be constructed at Mankayane, we are pleased to announce that the building of a fire station has been approved, while the construction of the SEC depot at Mankayane is nearing completion.

 

Health care is similarly prioritized and among the many aspects under improvement, good sanitary arrangements always represent a pre-requisite to healthy living conditions. During the year, 703 pit latrine toilets have been constructed in the four chiefdoms under Mahlangatsha inkhundla. Furthermore, health care services are being decentralized to local regional public health clinics for easier access.

A recurring issue throughout the past year, and one that will continue to influence Government spending over the coming few years, is the shortage of funds available to meet the needs of the Regions. The Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap is the pathway to achieving fiscal stability without stifling economic growth, and that requires bringing the public sector wage bill into a more manageable proportion of our National Income. To avoid redundancies Government has to sustain its pay freeze to achieve the fiscal targets.

At the same time we have to increase domestically sourced revenue and reduce our dependence on the share of the Pool of customs duties raised by the Southern African Customs Union. That external revenue source has been characterized by large and unpredictable fluctuations and inhibits tight financial forecasting and budgetary control.                                                     

The theme of this year’s Dialogue is “Turning Challenges into Opportunities.” We welcome the views and suggestions that address this theme and I urge all on the Government side to do their very best to address the concerns and proposals of those participating today and help to take key aspirations through to the National Dialogue and, in due course, to realization wish the gathering a fruitful and harmonious Dialogue.

Thank you.

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