Cash-strapped Swaziland delays civil servants' salaries

 
on November 11 2011 1:44 PM

Swaziland said on Friday it would delay paying civil servant salaries this month, a move prompted by a liquidity crisis that has already triggered unprecedented public protest in Africa's last absolute monarchy.

A government memorandum obtained by Reuters said salaries would be delayed for up to two weeks in November, a move that could stoke anger with the rule of King Mswati III.

Historically, two-thirds of Swazi government revenues have come from a regional customs union dominated by South Africa.

That money dried up in a 2009 South African recession, but Swaziland did not cut spending -- especially on the royal household or military -- causing its budget deficit to balloon to a Greece-scale 14 percent of GDP.

The crisis has sparked previously unseen demonstrations against Mswati, and anger over the economy sent thousands of people onto the streets of the hilly, land-locked nation of 1.4 million in September.

Mswati, who has been on the throne for 25 years, has at least a dozen wives and a fortune estimated at $200 million.

On the verge of bankruptcy, the government had been keeping its head above water by eating into central bank reserves and there have been fears that it would eventually be unable to pay government salaries, especially after a hoped-for loan from South Africa fell through.

The government memorandum signed by A.F. Mabila, the acting accountant general, said salary payment dates from November 20 to 30 had all been moved to December.

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