Chapter 1: Introduction
The PRSAP is Swaziland’s overarching statement on the strategy for reducing poverty and the challenges related to it. Its overall goal is to reduce poverty by more than 50% by 2015 and ultimately eradicate it by 2022. This is a very ambitious goal, but it is attainable with lots of commitment. The PRSAP cautions that tackling poverty in Swaziland would require fundamental
reforms and a change in development approach.
Reducing poverty is the central challenge confronting Swaziland today and in the long-term. Government realised the great inequalities that are prevalent in the country in terms of resource ownership and allocation and embarked on a national drive to revive the economy and also reduce inequalities and poverty. The first of such initiatives has been the development of the
national vision enshrined in the National Development Strategy (1997 – 2022). Poverty Reduction is the central focus of this vision.
To begin the long path to poverty eradication, the government decided on the formulation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP), as a critical component in the operationalisation of the National Development Strategy (NDS) and a direct confrontation to the reality of a development path that has been pursued leaving the majority of the population living
under abject poverty. The process of preparing the PRSAP began in earnest 2001 and led to the production of the Prioritised Action Programme on Poverty Reduction in 2002. This document concentrated on a limited number of poverty issues and its formulation did not allow wide consultation among stakeholders. The current document is a comprehensive PRSAP formulated after thorough consultation with a cross section of stakeholders and covers all the main sectors related to poverty.
The PRSAP preparatory process has been a widely participatory process, emphasising inputs from the poor themselves. A wide range of other stakeholders have been consulted in the development process. From the onset, stakeholders from government, parastatal organisations, NGOs, the donor community and the private sector were sensitised through a series of workshops about the need for a poverty reduction strategy. The process of consultation was extended to communities throughout the Kingdom at Tinkhundla level involving the different structures present. All views collected were carefully analysed and every effort has been made to ensure that they are reflected in this document. Drafting workshops were conducted in which all government Ministries and departments working with poverty related issues, the corporate sector, development partners, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector participated. This Plan is therefore the outcome of these very intensive and fruitful consultations.
About 69% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the worst situation being that 48% of the population cannot meet their food requirements i.e. they are considered to be living under extreme poverty. 76% of the poor are found in rural areas and 50% in urban areas. Although agriculture is a dominating activity, more than 40% of households have never had enough to eat.
The number has increased with the prolonged drought. They lack even the means of subsistence, insufficient income and the sad conditions of their daily lives combine to obstruct the attainment of their human and economic potential. Opportunities for breaking the cycle of vulnerability to protect future generations pose a serious challenge.
Poverty in Swaziland is about inequalities and wrong distribution policies. Swaziland’s GDP per capita of US$1, 387 (1999) places her among middle-income developing countries as defined by the World Bank. Its economy grew rapidly in the late 1980s, recording an average growth of approximately 9 per cent during the period 1986-1990. This growth declined thereafter to an
average of 3.4% for the period 1992-97. Despite the relative impressive growth and wealth, about 69% of the Swazi population live under abject poverty or continuing vulnerability to it.
The 2001 SHIES results indicate deepening poverty with inequalities remaining at the same levels as in 1995. The Gini coefficient is calculated at 51%. The pattern of wealth concentration indicates that only a small share of the population benefits from the national income. 56.4% of the wealth is held by the richest 20% whilst the poorest 20% hold only 4.3% (SHIES 2001). In
addition, despite that labour is the major asset owned by the poor, the national unemployment rate is estimated at 29% with the youth as the most affected group at 40% and women at more than 70%.
Employment opportunities have provided the major source of income for many of families in the past. However, with the unfavourable economic conditions, employment opportunities have declined considerably. The unemployment problem is seriously worse for the age group 15-24 as their levels are above 40%. The problem is worse in rural areas (25%) than in urban areas (15%).
According to World Bank estimates, 40% of the core poor is unemployed. A majority of employment opportunities have been generated by the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. But it has become increasingly difficult to attract and retain foreign investment.
Furthermore, Swaziland is facing a serious HIV/AIDS pandemic, the highest in the region with national prevalence rate estimated at 38.6% for 2002. The highest infection rates are found among the 15-29 years of age group, who form the skilled and productive segments of society. The whole society is vulnerable to HIV but the poor are least able to cope with its illnesses and
associated costs. It results in increased impoverishment of households with the elderly and children being the most vulnerable. Orphaned children are projected to be 120,000 by 2010.
As articulated before, poverty in Swaziland is primarily caused by inequalities. This is segmented between individuals, groups, and regions, urban and rural. The consequences of this situation of hardships are detrimental. There is a growing trend of severe bitterness as the society becomes more deprived. It is unfortunate that the analysis of the country’s development indicates that the gains from the past development are being eroded. This situation is likely not only to have an impact on the country’s social and political stability, but also the economic development path and the system of governance that is followed.
The present levels of poverty are going to have multiplier effects on the growth prospects thereby affecting negatively the welfare of future generations. Many households will be unable to attain the minimum living standard, face social exclusion, hunger, lack of a reliable source of income, denied satisfactory access to primary health care and basic education and risk fragmentation of family. Destitute children risk growing up on their own without parental love, care and guidance that is indicative of a lost generation in the future.
The PRSAP has been crafted such that it does not just present a list of ambitions and goals whose attainment seems to be beyond reach. The opportunities and limitations for intervention as well as the likely impact are articulated in this document. It is fortunate that the development of the Strategy came at a time when the country faces a vast variety of other national challenges, which put a strain on the country’s very limited resources. Realising this, the Strategy development process has been adaptive and the result is a document that reflects the multifaceted nature of poverty, a cross-sectoral response and an extensive implementation structure, all well-linked and coordinated through the implementation and monitoring Plan. The PRSAP proposes the consolidation of these initiative so that they are funded from a designated Poverty Fund. A clear analysis of the resource implications is presented in this document. The country has already embarked on some poverty related initiatives, the operations and monitoring of which was however not well co-ordinated. The PRSAP provides guidance for a more concerted and systematic effort on poverty reduction. However, it belongs to the nation and will be implemented by all stakeholders with government undertaking the co-ordination of implementation, mobilising some of the resources and monitoring the implementation.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP) will be the country’s development framework for poverty reduction. It is expected to have an overall impact on the development path to be pursued and it does place poverty reduction as priority. All development programmes are expected to have poverty reduction as the central focus and as such government will ultimately
implement the PRSAP through the different supportive mechanisms including the budget. It calls for a development agenda that has a human face. It will guide the formulation of government policy at both micro and macro levels in all the sectors as well as the type of projects to be implemented for effective poverty reduction. Under the PRSAP, the country will be transformed into a modern economy in which agents in all sectors can participate in economic growth. All stakeholders are expected to participate in the implementation of the PRSAP.
The approach taken is that sustainable economic growth is necessary and it should be accompanied by redistribution and poverty reduction. The future benefits to be derived from economic growth should be shared and the poor empowered to participate in growth. The belief is that neither transfers nor increased growth alone are sufficient to reduce poverty. This implies that the following conditions must exist:
A credible strategy is one that comes with actionable activities. The PRSAP is therefore divided in two volumes. Volume I: Strategy document, analyses the poverty situation in Swaziland – causes, status and present measures. It briefly outlines the key poverty issues and how they can be addressed as part of a sectoral, cross-sectoral and national strategy. Volume II: Action
Programme, it describes in brief actions that should be taken to implement the strategies listed in volume I. It will thus act as a key resource for implementing agencies. The new budgeting approach will also be based on the relevance and link of each funding requirement to these programmes of action.
Macro-economic stability with sustainable economic growth;
Promotion of a more equitable pattern of growth where the poor must be able to participate by expanding their opportunities;
Investment in people, quality human resource development to reduce risk and vulnerability;
Improvement of the quality of life of the most vulnerable, providing social protection for the poorest and most vulnerable;
Strengthening of governance institutions to increase the impact of policies for poverty reduction; and
Fostering transparency and accountability.