Swaziland mulls salary cut for lawmakers

2012-07-25 18:31

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Mbabane - Swaziland may reverse a controversial pay rise lawmakers awarded themselves as the kingdom struggles with a huge public wage bill and teachers strike over salaries, the government said on Wednesday.

The mountain kingdom may cancel the so-called Circular 1, a law passed in 2010 to give members of parliament a 30% salary hike, government spokesperson Percy Simelane said.

"Parliament has taken it up. Cabinet has discussed it," Simelane said. "I believe if they discover that 'yes, it must go,' it should."

The 95 lawmakers in Africa's last absolute monarchy earn over 20 000 emalangeni ($2 400) a month.

Simelane conceded this may be too much while 60% of the tiny country's 1.1 million people live on less than $2 a day.

The lawmakers' big paychecks "could be contributing towards the hefty salary bill that we have," he said. "If it is not [withdrawn] amid the outcry ... discontent will be very rife."

He insisted that the pay matched that of other southern African countries.

"I'm not sure that our politicians are paid better than other politicians in the region," he said.

Public servants have been striking in demand for a 4.5% raise for over a month, but authorities are refusing to increase their salaries.

In February the International Monetary Fund urged the government to slash its overall wage bill as the economy stagnated, with growth at just 0.3%.

Police have used rubber bullets, water cannon and batons to break up marches during the strike, in a country that tolerates little public dissent.

Workers blame the country's problems on the state-funded extravagance of King Mswati III, rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's richest royals, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.

Read more on:    king mswati iii  |  swaziland  |  southern africa
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