Swaziland yet to sign S.African loan deal: Treasury

11th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Swaziland has not yet signed the $368-million loan agreement extended by South Africa to bail out King Mswati III's cash-strapped government, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

"They have not yet signed the loan agreement and no reason has been given for the delay," said Bulelwa Boqwana, South African Treasury spokeswoman.

"The loan was supposed to be dispersed in three installments. The first one was due on August 31 and the last one in February next year, but no money has been tranferred to Swaziland," she said.

Pretoria agreed to the bail-out after Swaziland failed to secure loans from global lenders, who insisted on reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

South Africa also imposed loan conditions, including a requirement for Mswati to launch a national dialogue on reforms and to allow South African experts unhindered access to the country's fiscal and budget plans.

Swaziland was also directed to create avenues to attract foreign investment and institute reforms to stablise the economy.

Boqwana said the loan offer had no expiry date.

The International Monetary Fund has urged Mswati's government to reduce the public wage bill and the official travel budget and focus more on health and education.

Swaziland is battling to stay solvent after losing 60 percent of its revenues from a regional customs union, the government's main source of income, last year.

The deepening financial crisis in the impoverished kingdom has led to a series of unprecedented demonstrations by public servants over salary cuts.

The crisis has shut down schools and the country's only university, which failed to reopen for the new year due to lack of funds.

Activists blame the country's fiscal woes on Mswati, who is accused of bankrupting the nation with his lavish lifestyle, including 13 wives who each have their own palace.

© 2011 AFP

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