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REIN ON POOR PERFORMING PUBLIC ENTERPRISES - BUSINESS ESWATINI

By Bahle Gama | 2020-02-16

Business Eswatini CEO E. Nathi Dlamini says as an entity they expect the minister of finance to address the burgeoning financial pressure exerted on the fiscus by some of the country’s poorly-performing public enterprises.

Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg will be delivering the budget speech in parliament today. The minister’s budget speech comes immediately after South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address where Eswatini aligns most of its policies with the SONA.

Speaking during an interview yesterday, Dlamini said the minister may need to rationalise some of these enterprises and even shut down those whose purpose was no longer served by their existence.

“The minister needs to rein in public spending, especially on capital projects whose return is at best uncertain.  We have been spending a lot of money on nice-to-have capital projects.

“We can longer afford to do that because our situation is precarious. This is the time that we need to concentrate on surviving, which means we need to spend less than ever before,” he said.

He further stated that Minister Rijkenberg needed to somehow incentivise the private sector to invest more, particularly agriculture, manufacturing and tourism sectors and expand their operations in the country so as to create the necessary jobs needed for creating wealth for Emaswati.

“We need to create more jobs as the unemployment index seems to be escalating to uncomfortable levels. And it is not the duty of government to create jobs but of the private sector. Government must create the environment which is conducive to job creation,” he said.

He mentioned that he also expected the minister to strengthen his fiscal consolidation exercise, while at the same time creating innovative avenues for enhancing government revenues. This action, after all, is part of the turnaround strategy by government.

“However, the most pressing issue is: how and when will government be able to pay its arrears? A lot of businesses are owed money by government, and some of these companies have had to close down, hence we expect the minister to map a way forward on how he will address this most pressing issue. It is getting desperate out there.

“We also expect to have the minister make plain his strategy on how he plans to turn around the recurring budget deficit,” he added.

‘We expect more resources for infrastructure development’

The Eswatini Construction Industry Council (CIC) has voiced out its expectations from the budget speech tomorrow.

CIC CEO Nhlanhla Dlamini said from the council’s perspective, though government’s focus had been on stabilising the economy in the short term, they were hoping more resources would be committed towards infrastructure development.

“The year 2019 has been challenging for the construction industry, particularly with the decline in public resources directed to the construction sector, as evidenced by declining business opportunities, slow implementation rates for on-going infrastructure projects such as roads and due to non-payment of contractors and suppliers by government for work undertaken,” he said.

He stated that they noted that government’s Strategic Roadmap 2019-2022 was clear on government’s priorities for the next few years, which are commendable.

“It is on this premise that the industry is waiting in anticipation for the minister of finance’ budget speech and hopes are high that despite the current fiscal challenges, there will be commitment towards payment of arrears and increased expenditure towards national and community based infrastructure development.

“The positive spill-over effects will include the creation of job opportunities, boost in economic activity and overall improvement in doing business among industry stakeholders,” he added.

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