Mswati pleads for Greek-style bailout

Manzini - Swazi King Mswati III said on Wednesday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank should come to his country’s rescue, as they have for troubled nations like Greece and Portugal.

“When they come to visit us, they do not come in the same spirit and that is a cause for concern,” he said at the opening of a two-day “dialogue” that the palace is promoting as a step out of its crippling financial crisis.

Labour unions that organised five days of anti-government protests last week are boycotting the meeting, and police blocked a small protest by civic and religious groups at the start of Mswati’s “Smart Partnership Dialogue".

They accuse Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch, of bankrupting the nation with his lavish lifestyle, including 13 wives who each has her own palace.

Mswati, who arrived at the meeting in a luxury car, admitted that his country’s economy was “not a good sight to see“.

The IMF has refused to grant loans to Swaziland until the government takes steps to rein in spending.

While the IMF has called for trimming the public wage bill, it has also urged the government to reduce its travel budget and focus more on health and education.

“We are given timelines that are difficult to meet,” Mswati complained of the recommendations.

“I am quite confused as to which advice to take. The IMF has its own advice, the ILO (International Labour Organisation) has its own advice and the UN has its own advice. This puts us in a predicament knowing the state of the economy,” he said.

Unable to access international loans, Mswati has won a $343m bailout from South Africa, but the money has yet to be released.

As a condition for the loan, Pretoria insisted that Mswati open a “national dialogue“, which the meeting Wednesday intended to address.

About 1 000 people attended the talks, including students, business leaders, academics and government officials. Representatives of organisations, such as unions, are not allowed unless they speak only as individuals.
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