Monday February 19, 2018

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STATEMENT BY THE RT HON PRIME MINISTER

 

DR B.SIBUSISO DLAMINI

 

AT THE 2018 CABINET RETREAT

 

PIGGS PEAK HOTEL

 

MONDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2018

Honourable Cabinet Colleagues,

On behalf of His Majesty’s Government I welcome you all to this year’s Cabinet Retreat, the time to reflect, re-analyse and re-commit.

We are now into the final year of this Administration. The time to accelerate. As you look ahead, please relate your efforts to the performance of a champion 400 metre athlete. You have rounded the final bend and into the home strait. The finishing tape is visible. As a champion this is when you try harder and dig deeper to hit the tape without a nanosecond of concession to fatigue. That is what I want from my Cabinet in 2018.

There is a very busy agenda ahead of us. Every agenda item is an important subject. I feel we can legitimately compare running the Administration with operating a successful and prosperous company – to provide an excellent service, maximize our revenue, minimize our costs, and make sure that we pay everyone to whom we owe money and in accordance with the terms on which we contracted the indebtedness. Let us recommit to those objectives as we progress through this Retreat.

We have our five year targets in the 2013-18 Programme of Action. This item is on the Agenda for discussion, and I ask you to ensure that all Ministries and other agencies will be submitting the information on performance against targets within the prescribed time period.

We are constrained in terms of financial resources. In this regard,two of the agenda items are of special relevance:firstly a discussion of the fourth quarter 2017/18 cash budget, and secondly, in the form of a more lengthy projection and our annual submission to Parliament- the 2018/19 Budget itself. What we will be very anxious to see is the reassurance that suppliers of goods and services to Government will receive payment of outstanding balances in a fair and expeditious manner. Much attention has been given to this matter and it is essential that we take care of the private sector to the same extent we expect it to look after Government, in terms of the quality of its service.

Our reliance on the inconsistentand unpredictable level of revenue from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) makes optimal resource maximization and control a very difficult task. Reducing our reliance on that source of revenue is a subject on the agenda this week. One technique available to us is to build up a reserve from any windfall gains from SACU, in order to cover the shocks when the payout drops precipitately. A more controllable, but substantially more challenging, measure is to increase the amount of domestic revenue raised by the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA). And in this regard I would like to re-emphasise what I said in this retreat last year – and was unfortunately publicly misquoted – that we must commit the fullest energy to broadening tax compliance across the population whose income is above the tax threshold. This must be the priority, instead of taking the easy route of simply broadening the tax basethat would have knock-on costs for the general public, and create a significant disincentive to new investors. One of the agenda items will see a discussion of the effects of the recent SRA strike.

In addition, there are two very important events taking place in this calendar year that we will be discussing. Firstly, we have the 50:50 celebrations in April 2018. It will be a time for joining together in the harmonious spirit that has made our country what it is today, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of King Mswati III, at the same time as commemorating a half century of national independence.

The new system of payments to the elderly of the Nation is also an agenda item for discussion, with the emphasis on ensuring that a person turning 60 years of age does not have to wait till the end of the current Government financial year before being entitled to the elderly payment. Creating a stronger system of social security in the country, providing a greater degree of financial security for those experiencing the misfortune of being unable to work, or to secure employment,is an important objective. The subject of social security will therefore be discussed, and a presentation received by Cabinet on the progress towards setting up the Social Security Authority.

The quality of our health services will always, along with education, command the highest priority. We have to work faster to covering all our health challenges, including progress made by the task forces set up last year. While steadily increasing the domestic supply of specialist medical skills, we still have to refer patients to medical services outside the country. The recent problems encountered with the Phalala Fund should never be repeated. Cabinet must, this week, pay critical attention to the presentation paper relating to that Fund and why the scheme failed to meet our national demands in recent times.

A further item on the list of social services for discussion at this Retreat will be the situation at the Swaziland Christian University, in which we hope to secure the assurance that all is proceeding satisfactorily, with the academic welfare of the undergraduates in the forefront of our concerns. Our discussions will, in fact, include a review of the status of our tertiary education sector as a whole.

As a nation we rely heavily on our security services to maintain law and order. That does involve considerably more risk in the professional life of a serving officer than in that of an ordinary member of the general public. The officers and their dependents are entitled to compensation in the event of death or injury, and we shall be discussing progress in finalizing the Security Forces and Services Compensation Special Fund designed for that purpose.

Enabling a rapid increase in the number of sustainable livelihoods, especially for the young people of our country, is an objective of very pressing importance. The Youth Revolving Fund has to provide more effectively the funding for which it was set up, and see the desired impact as well as the planned loan recovery outcome. Cabinet will discuss the subject and be briefed on a new strategy which I trust will incorporate much closer mentoring and monitoring of projects financed from the Fund, in order to achieve more productive enterprises, and a more rapid and consistent payback to finance future loans.

These are some of the items in a very full agenda before us this week. Let me now, without further ado, urge my Cabinet colleagues to commit to vigorous and productive discussions in the Retreat, and a replenished energy for real results in the final months of this Administration.

On behalf of His Majesty’s Government I now declare the Cabinet Retreat 2018 duly opened.

Thank you.

 

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