When I last wrote about the state of the Swazi economy, the government was scrambling to stay afloat. The situation has continued to deteriorate and the Mail & Guardian reports that a recent IMF mission deems the current crisis has reached a “critical stage.” Although the government recently pulled together enough money to pay government employees this month, next month’s pay checks are in serious jeopardy, and some private companies that rely on government contracts have already begun to lay off workers.
King Mswati continues to blame outsiders for his country’s woes. South Africa offered to provide a R2.4 billion (~$290 million) loan several months ago, but no money has been transferred because Mswati has yet to agree to the conditions of the loan, which include political and economic reforms. Swaziland has thus far refused to a wage cut for government workers as well, which the IMF considers a necessary step.
The financial troubles are exacerbating the challenge of responding to the country’s AIDS pandemic — the world’s worst — and various reports highlight that the country is facing shortages of HIV/AIDS supplies. PEPFAR has provided emergency funds for first-line ARVs, but in a nation where nearly one in four people are HIV-positive, gaps in critical health care will only exacerbate the dire economic situation.
This previously stable, middle-income country is looking more and more like a train about to go off a cliff.