Category: News

BE Press Statement on the Extension of Tax Deal

On 27th July 2022 Business Eswatini in collaboration with ERS and revenue Appeals Tribunal convened a first-of-its-kind national Tax Indaba, dubbed Tax-Talk in which every stakeholder imaginable was represented; delegates were drawn from big and small business, women and indigenous-owned businesses, including businesses owned by PLD’s (people living with disabilities) as well as the youth under the Youth Chamber. The primary aim of the conference was to teach and capacitate tax payers about taxation, especially the complexities of the country’s tax regime.  Attendees were also introduced to the mechanics of our tax laws, including the proposed amendments which are sponsored by government.

This was a long overdue conversation which resulted in a vibrant and constructive debate amongst participants.  ERS, thankfully, was at hand to respond to questions real time while BE moderated the dialogue. There were tax experts retained by BE who took the time to handhold attendees on the tax guidelines as well as highlighting to tax authorities the shortcomings and possible pitfalls of some of the proposed tax clauses.

Resolutions or recommendations that came out of the event were, namely, a) that the proposed amendment regarding worldwide taxation be held in abeyance until the economy fully recovers from pandemic doldrums. Attendees, supported by BE leadership, claimed that a worldwide tax could scare off investors which are desperately needed by the country. b) there was a recommendation that the proposed capital gains tax has to be put on hold even though attendees did concede that the whole world was beginning to move towards this type of tax. Notwithstanding, they insisted that Eswatini is in a precarious position due to high unemployment and social strife which demanded that the country be cautious about its investor-unfriendly tax proposals against the pressing needs of creating jobs. C) There was also a proposal that BE should pursue the matter of an extension of the Debt Relief Amnesty programme under the ERS. The expiration of the amnesty was today (Friday 5th August, 2022). We are very pleased today that Business Eswatini has pursued this matter successfully as today we have come here to jointly announce the extension as well as acknowledge ERS for working tirelessly behind the scenes to deliver on what was not only BE’s request, but a request from the floor of the tax indaba.

On behalf of BE membership and the whole private sector in general, we would like to thank the Hon Minister of Finance as well as the Commissioner General of ERS for responding positively to our request. The transformation of ERS away from an Authority into a service institution is now being felt by all of us and it is a breath of fresh air. We have no doubt that all tax payers do recognize the transformation. To recompense ERS for taking the first step of waving the olive branch to tax payers, all we can do is to encourage taxpayers to make every effort to be tax-compliant. ERS has assured us that should a tax payer run into a problem, they are now willing to sit down and listen and make a plan. The bottom line, they said, is that they now want to engage tax payers before they adopt harsher alternative measures, which still remain at their disposal

It was a landmark tax event without equal and BE has been lavished with accolades for organizing the event which ended up being over-subscribed. A second instalment of the event is being discussed. The tax extension means the Tax Indaba is now delivering the results.

Business Eswatini

Business Community and ESERA hold Successful “Power-Talk”

One of the major objectives of the Indaba was to discuss the issues around the availability and sustainability of energy supply in the country, especially post 2025. It was felt that it is important to have an open conversation on this matter especially around the guarantee of future supplies of electricity as well as on the migration from fossil fuels to the more desirable and sustainable green energies. With the widespread reports of energy shortages which might necessitate load-shedding, it was felt that all stakeholders need to come together to look for ingenious ways to avert this threat. As the country seeks alternative sources of energy, which the private sector has already begun doing, the gathering felt that we need to be mindful and sensitive to the price-points at which these alternatives will be offered. Another issue which the gathering felt strongly about was the need for BE to be to consider matters of climate change as said matters require urgent attention.

BE were very pleased to note the cordial manner in which the engagements were conducted between business, the electricity supplier and the energy regulator which is something that was encouraging to all. Furthermore, the energy regulator did mention that we are in the midst of a regional energy crisis which he said could be overcome by Eswatini as the country is well endowed with biomass which can make it possible for the country to move towards renewable energy at a faster speed. He also alluded to the fact that energy is a key driver of economic development and as such, it was imperative for the regulator to be involved in this meeting, not only just to share regulatory information with attendees, but to also gather ideas from the business community.

BE are still yet to reflect on the key insights from this engagement. However, we are grateful as an organization to all members who represented the private sector meaningfully in this important discourse and we also wish to thank all stakeholders for the sheer spirit of cooperation which they displayed during this landmark energy indaba.

We will give further updates on this in due course.

ATTACKS ON BUSINESS A GROWING CONCERN

As a Federation of Employers as well as a Chamber of Commerce our commitment is primarily to our members and the private sector at large. As a secretariat, we take this mandate seriously even though at times we may fall short of expectation.

Equally, we feel it is our duty to ensure that the environment in which we do business is conducive as well as safe for all investors, especially BE members.  Through our extensive networks, BE has done a lot to encourage both foreign and local investors into the country and our record in this regard is unimpeachable. However, attracting investors without a retention strategy is foolhardy at best. To this end, BE has done a considerable amount of work to ensure that the businesses we already have in the country are retained despite the advent of what seems to be a less-than-friendly environment in which to do business.

We devote resources into retaining investment projects so that they continue to create the jobs desperately needed in the country, especially by our youth whose unemployment currently stands at a staggering 58%. This figure even in the best of times is completely untenable.

The national unemployment rate also sits, alarmingly, at no less than 34% which is something that bears testimony to the pressing need to expedite job-creation in the country, through foreign and local direct investment projects. And jobs can only be created when investors, both foreign and local, choose to invest in this country as their preferred investment destination. There is no other way to create jobs than for people to found businesses and hire Emaswati; which means the artificial hurdles and barriers we have erected in the marketplace have to be addressed as they are frustrating investors unnecessarily.

It is for this reason that Business Eswatini would always be the first to complain bitterly when policies or initiatives which are investor-unfriendly are being promoted in the country. As an organization we are obsessed about job creation but we are also not unmindful of the inescapable fact that jobs can only come from entrepreneurs and risk-takers who decide to take a chance and invest in the country. 

To demonstrate Business Eswatini’s sincerity to promote investment and create new jobs in the country, we decided, as everyone is aware, to convene a landmark dialogue between workers and employers. And, thankfully, it was a resounding success in terms of meeting its stated objectives. The aim of this bipartite dialogue was, amongst others, to explore opportunities which could be leveraged in order to fast-track the country’s job-creation agenda. Whilst employers and workers may have had their differences during dialogue, they were, however, one-minded on the issue of retaining investors who create the jobs desperately needed by the masses. One is therefore thankful to have learnt an important lesson that despite our differences, there is always a way in which people can find each other if the determination to do so exists.  

It is on the basis of the foregoing that the spate of destruction and attacks being suffered by both foreign and local investors in the country is now of grave concern to us.

Through natural business linkages and empowerment programs, most investors coopt smaller companies to participate in some major national project.  Unfortunately, it is these very same local companies end up bearing brunt of these attacks. Jobs are being lost as we speak which is akin to one cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

As Business Eswatini we call for restraint all round, for the sake of protecting existing jobs. For the sake of the unemployed. Increasingly, and sadly, our country’s standing as a viable foreign direct investment destination is being steadily compromised. Critical sectors that employs thousands of Emaswati such as textile, major construction companies, retailers, and so forth, have suffered irreparable damage in a space of only a few months. That is disheartening.

ILO Pleased with Dialogue for Jobs

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed its happiness following the successful dialogue that was held by employers and employees in the country two weeks ago. It was dubbed “Bipartite Dialogue for jobs 2022” and was the first event of its kind in Eswatini. The ILO usually works with the tripartite where all social partners which comprise of government, employees and employers are represented. However, this time they provided support for a bipartite dialogue where employers were in discussions with employees through both partner’s representative bodies on a wide range of issues.

At the beginning of the summit the ILO, represented by their Employer Activities Specialist, Maria Machailo-Molebatsi had expressed their eagerness to see employers and employees working closely to find each other especially on matters arising at factory-floor level.

The ILO congratulated TUCOSWA and Business Eswatini, the two apex representative organisations representing employees and employers respectively, for a resoundingly successful dialogue. In a statement released to this media house after the event, Ms. Machailo-Molebatsi said it was crucial for employers and employees to strengthen their partnership especially because they are bound by their mutual interest of ensuring healthy business and decent jobs. Other issues including the recent threat posed by the COVID pandemic, climate change and the evolving need for skills which are relevant to the new world of work also called for these stakeholders to engage more.

She said the ILO hoped that this was the first of many such engagements whose outcomes would be demonstrated by a lockstep relationship between employers and employees. She also highlighted that the ILO is in support of decent work for all and expressed concern that as they are pursuing that, unemployment is increasing and some developments such as technology are also threatening the very same jobs that they are trying to preserve and enrich. The onus is upon the social partners to push for policies which are cognizant of these developments.

She also stated that government, as the third social partner, would have to come to the table as the resultant joint statement suggested. Without the policy enabling organ, employers and employees would not reach their full potential because policy plays a major role in facilitating a fertile ground for the development of the economy. She pledged the support of the ILO where they can and expressed optimism that this journey will yield only the best for business in Eswatini.

For the next 2 weeks, BE CEO E. Nathi Dlamini will be representing the private sector in the 110th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC)

After over two years of virtual meetings, the ILO has convened the110th session of the International Labour Conference face-to-face and the agenda is packed. Issues to be discussed  are wide-ranging with equally wide-ranging implications on the world of work; and on workers and employers alike. The pandemic in particular and the fourth industrial revolution that’s come knocking at our doors earlier than previously envisaged, have changed everyone’s perspective, including mine, on many things and of late all eyes are unsurprisingly fixated, almost firmly, on what they refer to here as a “human-centered” approach to economic recovery. Of course we’re yet to engage and debate these matters in the next few days, and I, for one, look forward to participating in any manner permissible by my status as an vote-bearing official delegate.

The bottom line is that whatever is officially adopted here becomes law everywhere, almost literally. This means that we, as delegates, must always have our eyes peeled and ears alert so that the legitimate interests of our country or alternatively, the interests of the three social partners in the country are not ridden roughshod over. It’s a packed program ahead as it ought to be.

Let me add this: The ILO has been very good to Business Eswatini and I value their partnership and commitment to Business Eswatini especially in the past four years.  As I attend these meetings here in Geneva I cannot help but wax lyrical about our relationship with this organization.  I do so as the prospects of yet another project which I have on my mind looms ever so large; a project which will need  partners of substance such as the ILO.

Joint Statement

Bipartite dialogue to encourage peace and unity in the workplace, while promoting prosperity for all by way of jobs, concluded at the Happy Valley Hotel in Ezulwini (10-11 May 2022)


Organised Business and Organised Labour held an official bipartite dialogue in Ezulwini on 10th and 11th May 2022 at the Happy Valley Hotel. The primary aim of the dialogue was to identify and deliberate on the issues which pose a threat to existing jobs or stand in the way of creating new employment opportunities for the thousands of Emaswati who are without jobs. COVID-19 and the social unrest that ensued further exacerbated the
situation of joblessness in the country.

During the meeting The President of Business Eswatini (BE) Mr. Andrew le Roux and the President of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), Mr. Bheki Mamba led the delegations respectively. The Parties acknowledged with appreciation their existing bilateral cooperation
agreement and welcomed the progress achieved through this instrument particularly in the spheres of dispute-resolution at enterprise-level. Furthermore, they appreciated the partnership on areas that advanced their mutual interest more so as they are both classified as apex organizations in the country.

The Parties agreed that the bipartite meeting constitutes the baseline for social dialogue not only at enterprise level, but also at national level. The Parties further recognized that out of the thematic areas identified, much of the strategies proposed to address the issues which threaten current and future jobs should be brought to the attention of other stakeholders outside of this meeting. As a result, the parties agreed that at the conclusion of the dialogue, the report should be shared with the key stakeholder, Government, with the hope that the issues identified shall be pursued at a higher level such as by the
tripartite or tripartite (plus), whatever the case will be.

The Parties further acknowledged that this is the first bipartite dialogue of its kind in the country. They agreed that the challenges they face in the world of work in 2022 and beyond, are unique and unprecedented. As a result, employers would not be competent to resolve them by themselves, neither can the workers. Notwithstanding, the Parties reaffirmed that they need each other to find common solutions to these unique challenges. Encouraged by the knowledge that when the Parties begin to earnestly put their heads and efforts together around these problems, solutions would not evade them; even if they end up agreeing to disagree on some of the issues tabled for discussion. While these challenges have been building over a number of years, if not decades, the Parties identified thematic areas to initiate their discussions; namely:
(a) Employment protection and job creation by considering the actions required to preserve the current jobs; while making vigorous attempts to create new ones, especially for the youth.
(b) The future of work, which looked at the state of the country’s readiness to the insidious effects of the fourth industrial revolution on the labour market;
(c) The recognition of skills as a driving force of economic growth vis-à-vis those which are currently produced or available for industry in the country;
(d) The effects of climate change on the labour market and food security; and
(e) Industrial relations issues, specifically trade union governance; violent industrial action which has resulted in the destruction of company assets which in turn pose a threat to existing jobs, and difficulties of trade union recognition, even where the unions had met all the requirements for recognition at shop-floor level.


In addition to identifying issues outside the thematic areas, both Parties expressed concern that Eswatini is undergoing deep socio-economic and political crises, both of which require everyone’s serious attention. The dialogue was convened under the guiding principles of Acceptance, Equality and Transparency; and all efforts were channeled towards identifying the issues on the ground and formulating strategies on how to address the stated challenges. In so many respects, the Parties were in agreement on not only the thematic areas identified for discussion but also the issues raised by each of them, such as:

  • The need to reconfigure the education system to address the skills challenges including responses to the effects of the fourth industrial revolution; and the urgent need for Government to avail training incentives to employers who upskill their workers.
  • The need to create a tripartite platform to deal with issues of employment protection and job creation, such as the Ministry of Education, and Ministry of
    Finance, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy on issues of climate change affecting the labour market.
  • The importance of research and development was emphasized especially its relevance to respond to the challenges identified in the thematic areas and to
    inform the policies which will bring solutions to them.
  • Political-will is necessary not only at Government level but also at enterprise level between employers and workers to implement sound policies that build the economy for the betterment of the livelihoods of all Emaswati.
  • The parties identified the issues of corruption and nepotism that were opined as being buoyed by the pervasive culture of institutionalized patronage.
  • These two issues were cited as national plagues that need to be combated both in the private and public sectors.
  • With regard to trade union governance, it was agreed that factions are like a cancer that is jointly caused by incapacity on the part of Employers and Workers alike, and as such both parties may need assistance in the form of capacity-building in this regard.
  • The existence of trade unions is a human rights issue and cannot be done away with. It was thus agreed that trade union recognition are matters of law, and where there are rights involved, they cannot be simply disregarded by others without legal justification.
  • While it was noted that the employer-employee relationship is founded on conflict, it was stated that trade unionism thrives where employers fail to be on the same page as workers. The Parties acknowledged that the solutions to recognition and industrial action issues do not always require invoking the law but may be resolved through engagement and dialogue, at bipartite level.
  • Having identified some of the causes or triggers of violent industrial action, which included: protracted negotiations, the inclusion of third parties and state security organs when industrial relations issues and tension arise, and the use of replacement labour during lawful strikes; a call was made for the review of all the draconian legislation to bring them into alignment with best practice. More-so because it was noted that the Public Order Act is dichotomous in some sections as it gives the worker rights on the one hand, and on the other takes away those rights.
  • The Parties acknowledged the progress made towards solving the industrial relations tensions at enterprise level as they jointly agreed to the setting up of a sub-committee constituted by their respective representatives to engage on these issues soon after their meeting. It was stressed that these issues be resolved before the envisaged tripartite is convened.

    The Parties also agreed that jobs are the best insurance against poverty, especially for the vulnerable, and they therefore reaffirmed their commitment to protecting jobs, promoting employment-creation, promoting industrial peace and stability, and the importance of resolving disputes speedily. The Parties reiterated the importance of their continued partnership even after the dialogue, stating that it is important to find opportunities to bring their minds together to discuss issues of mutual interest and devise solutions to them. Crucially, a call was made by the Parties for stronger institutions, such as the media, the judiciary as well as action to address service delivery shortcomings. They stated that law and order require effective and impartial organs of State. This was emphasized in particular in reference to the issues they often face in the political and economic environment in which they exist.
    Thus agreed and confirmed by the parties: Signed on 20 May 2022 at Emafini Business Centre in Mbabane.

President of Business Eswatini President of the Trade Union
Mr. Andrew le Roux Congress of Swaziland
Mr. Bheki Mamba

For further information, kindly contact:
E. Nathi Dlamini Sikelela Dlamini
Chief Executive Officer Deputy Secretary
Business Eswatini Trade Union Congress
ceo@business-eswatini.co.sz Swaziland
7699 5985 or 76062004 dmlaba4@gmail.com
7926 6803 or 7626 6803

Business Eswatini and TUCOSWA to hold “Dialogue for Jobs”

Business Eswatini and TUCOSWA will, on the 10th and 11th May, hold a bipartite event dubbed “Dialogue on Jobs”. This is an event in which the Business Eswatini and the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), as apex bodies of employers and employees respectively, will engage on a broad range of economic and labour-related issues with a view of finding common solutions to mutual challenges.

The purpose of the dialogue is premised on the need to strengthen the partnership between business and workers at all levels especially in areas of mutual interest. Having taken note of the current difficult situation in the country especially when it comes to jobs as well as the glaring skills mismatch in the labour market, the bipartite have seen the pressing need for a dialogue on these important issues with the intention of arriving at a consensus on the said issues.

“Organized business in Eswatini through BE already have a well-established Bipartite Forum with TUCOSWA which dates back years and we meet as and when issues need to be discussed. This time BE has activated the agreement paving the way for the two partners to sit together in one room and explore options on creating a productive environment for the workforce through social dialogue. BE is one-minded with TUCOSWA in believing that open communication and information sharing, consultation, and negotiation are important factors in creating a harmonious labour space.

Our economy desperately needs jobs as unemployment is at its highest owing to the impact of the pandemic and social unrest. To address these matters expeditiously, BE is of the opinion that the conversation must begin at the shop floor level, between employers and workers.

Participation in the dialogue will be by invitation only. The event will be moderated by a highly reputable specialist with extensive experience in the field of labour law and social dialogue. That being said, Business Eswatini would like to thank the ILO for underwriting this event and for the support they are providing in terms of resources. This organization has been a reliable partner to BE and we are most grateful indeed.

On another note, we would like to thank our members who have come out to show resounding support for the dialogue. Not only did they support us privately, but they were willing to even do it on various public mediums.

Some of them include:

Dr. Sipho Nkambule (CEO) – Eswatini Cane Growers Association

We would like to thank Business Eswatini and TUCOSWA for collaborating in this groundbreaking manner. In the work environment, there will always be issues that crop up from time to time which need to be addressed. We are very happy to see organizations which are at the helm of wealth creation working together to find solutions in the labour space and to lay a firm foundation for the future of the business sector.

The agriculture sector, like most industries, is compelled to adopt technology at a fast pace which calls for us to proactively formulate forward-looking plans and strategies to keep pace with these changes and their consequences. Most of these changes dictate that we need to adapt in order to stay relevant and competitive. Technologies are being improved everyday forcing us to address the issue of skills development and upgrade. We are happy that there will also be discussions on how to reskill, upskill and multi-skill our employees. It is our sincerely held principle that development should always strive to strike the delicate balance between wealth creation and sustainable livelihoods for the people of Eswatini in an inclusive manner. We trust that the outcomes of this dialogue will help to improve productivity and ultimately fast-track the economic recovery and development.

Kudos to both Business Eswatini and TUCOSWA for this event and wish them very well as they try to look for solutions of the present and the future.”

Ms. Daphne Mhlanga (Plant Manager) – Afrisam Eswatini

As AfriSam we would like to express our appreciation to Business Eswatini (BE) and TUCOSWA for the engagement. As members of BE we fully support the BE’s objectives of job preservation, enhancement and creation. We are aware of the desperate situation caused by unemployment and AfriSam has been committed to making a meaningful impact and positively contributing towards the growth and development of Eswatini and its citizens.

We have a broad range of social responsibility programs geared towards providing concrete solutions in the communities in which we do business. Our programs span from education and health to youth development. However, these programs can only go so far to uplift the communities in which we operate. We are thus looking forward to the dialogue and trust that it will have a positive effect.

We are hopeful that some forward-looking solutions will be found and that our employer-employee relations will grow from strength to strength.”

Ms. Zinhle Matsebula (MD) – Lifespan Diagnostics  

The bipartite dialogue initiative has come at the right time where there is a glaring need to address the havoc left by the most recent developments in the country which caused economic stagnation and a high incidence of unemployment. As a company whose passion is to reverse the rife unemployment rates especially among the youth, we are very grateful to BE for the engagement between employers and employees and we have our fingers crossed that it will yield some great outcomes.

As a business sector we are not coping with the rate at which unemployment is growing, hence the need to look at collective solutions to arrest this alarming problem. The job summit will benefit both employers and employees as it will provide a level ground for both parties to unlock the economic dilemmas we need to deal with collectively and harmoniously.

From this dialogue, I also hope the engagements will promote mutual respect among both stakeholders concerned and limit the number of disputes in the workplace.

Our hopes are very high and we are excited about an initiative of this nature.”

Stay tuned for more details in the coming days.

Business Eswatini Hold Successful AGM

Business Eswatini hosted an extraordinary annual general meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday. Members of this apex private sector representative body were updated on critical issues impacting the business environment in the country.

Critical decisions on the mandate of the Organisation were thrashed out as well as the added responsibilities which members had to pursue. The event was well-attended and delegates went out waxing lyrical about the organization’s achievements in the past two years.

The President of Business Eswatini, Mr. Andrew Le Roux, led the proceedings supported by his vice presidential incumbents in Fikile Nkosi (Nedbank), Bheki Maziya (RES) and Mvuselelo Fakudze (Std Bank) who are responsible for the Trade and Commerce, Industrial Relations and Social Policy and Finance portfolios respectively. The CEO, E. Nathi Dlamini facilitated the programme alongside the president.

In his opening remarks, the president highlighted the importance of unity especially at a time when the country was divided. He further encouraged members to be active participants in the country’s policy direction and to weigh in on matters of economic development. He lamented the fact that the business community had not been able to meet as frequently as they had wanted and heaped most of the blame squarely on the effects of the pandemic and the unpalatable restrictions it attracted. He said that as a result some compliance lapses arose. He, however, stressed that Business Eswatini should always be a standard bearer for corporate governance. He articulated some of the gaps which creeped in as a result of the pandemic amongst which included the failure to convene regular meetings as per the organization’s constitution. The president further decried the fact that Business Eswatini’s priorities had to be frequently shuffled from time to time in order to concentrate on the issues that were deemed to be urgent, especially the response to the pandemic and pressing legislative issues.    

The members were updated on new developments which the president said would shape the future landscape of business. Some of the hot topics covered included the need to ensure a conducive tax environment, support for labor-intensive industries such as the textile industry and cross-border topical issues including harmonization of border processes and transport and logistics issues of licensing and violence.

On Industrial Relations, new developments were primarily on the setting up of a coherent and sustainable social security fund, the employment legislation issues and training and localization matters which remained unresolved to date.

The members endorsed the secretariat’s decisions on a wide array of matters and further expressed satisfaction with the organization’s progress of advancing the private sector’s interests.

Another important issue that was deliberated on included the board’s term of office where the members had to debate on whether or not to go for another process of elections or extend the current board’s term. To this end, the membership endorsed a proposal to have the current board continue to serve because if they were to step down, the organization would be left without a board until the next election cycle which is a situation that they said would be untenable especially against the obtaining backdrop of an extremely volatile trading landscape. The view was that the board had done well in managing market challenges and navigating a complex environment in the country on behalf of members.

 They expressed confidence on the leadership of the president and his team and went further to applaud their collective work ethic and their ability to uphold common values and consensus. Their institutional memory and acquaintance with the topical issues of the day was counted as a much needed strength. E. Nathi Dlamini BE’s CEO took time to happily congratulate the new team. He said; “On behalf of the management team and staff of Business Eswatini, I would like to congratulate the board of directors and to thank them for agreeing to continue in their current roles. We are well aware that most of them, including the president, had wanted to take a break, but on the secretariat’s behest, they agreed to carry on nonetheless.”

Reaction by Business Eswatini To the 2022-23 Budget, presented by Minister of Finance on the 18th February 2022

Reaction by Business Eswatini

To the 2022-23 Budget,

presented by Minister of Finance on the 18th February 2022

Business Eswatini hereby acknowledges what seems like a pro-poor national budget tabled by the Minister of Finance.

Given our long history of social and economic inequalities, it is therefore encouraging to get the sense that the Minister’s budget speech seems to be aimed at making every attempt to address prevailing socio-economic issues of unemployment and income inequalities inherent in our society. Some have even said that the minister has put soul into what is generally a capitalistic society. Equally, given what this country has been through especially in the past two years, a little ‘soul’ may be what the doctor ordered. We therefore applaud the minister’s efforts in this regard.

In his wide and varied budget speed, the Minister of Finance highlighted a number of positive initiatives aimed at reviving the economy, in particular uplifting the poor in the country, who have been left worse off and worse for wear especially by recent unfortunate events, notably in the past half year. The minister’s policy direction is clearly articulated and aimed at reducing unemployment coupled with an attempt at bridging the income inequality gap. While this will demand a huge investment into training and development of our labour force, the outcome and success of the policy itself may not be guaranteed as there are many pitfalls to be managed along the way.

However, it is BE’s opinion that these are first ‘baby steps’ in the right direction by the finance minister. Our social milieu and economic distribution are, and have been, highly skewed to the exclusion of others and as such, credible efforts were urgently needed to rebalance the scales so that every Liswati has a stake in the economy.

Taxation

As a business community, we welcome the reduction of corporate tax from 27.5% to 25%, negligible as it may seem. Every little bit helps. It is indeed welcomed news for all businesses and comes at a time when it is needed the most. Companies have suffered the most as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the reduction in corporate tax may provide room for companies to breathe and at the same time encourage direct investment and business expansion. We would like to commend Government’s efforts in implementing such policy instruments that respond to the times and environment which we find ourselves in. This is something our government has not been well-known for in the past – and this is meant as a genuine compliment rather than a snide remark. It is also commendable that for the first time in a long time, the Government of Eswatini delivered a speech that is independent of South Africa and one which is responsive to our very own socio-economic situation as a country.

Not to detract from the foregoing, it must be noted, however, that many companies in the country are swimming in red ink especially in the past two years, which means they are in deep debt and are in a loss-making position. As such, they would not have been paying corporate tax anyway, and by extension, this means this tax break may well be a moot benefit to them. Nonetheless, we still positively welcome this development.

Rich to subsidize the poor

Although any increment in tax is unpleasant, the 3% increment from 33% to 36% of PAYE for higher income earners who earn above E300,000 aimed at bridging the income inequality gap is a rational but painful policy that we hope will actually benefit the poor in our society. Lifting the tax bracket where individuals start paying tax from E4,000 instead of E3,500 will go a long way towards enhancing disposable incomes desperately needed by the poor. We would propose government to have the increases staggered, beginning with 34% in the first year and ending with 36% on the third year. A huge 3% jump all at once will be rebuffed by tax-weary taxpayers. 

Expenditure

BE would like to caution government yet again to cut her coat according to her cloth this time around.

That being said, we recognize government’s efforts in allocating taxpayers’ hard earned money toward viable projects. Implementation of recommendations such as the reduction of the number of public enterprises and the continued management of the wage bill, while on the other hand allocating funds to ICT, infrastructural development, health and education is a good policy direction. These projects will enable an efficient business environment and increase competitiveness of our industries even in regional and international markets. The minister must spend thriftily and wisely here even on necessary projects. We also caution against unsubstantiated price hikes for big projects which end up inflating our budget deficit because of cost-overruns. BE hope this will not happen again as the tax payer ends up footing unjustifiable bills from unscrupulous service providers.   

Social Security

we agree that social security as a whole should be a priority for any country including the UBF among others. Our main issue is the way we are dealing with these as a country and how it will be governed. We wish for a holistic discussion on social security as was envisaged in the Draft National Social Security Policy as well as proper consultation of stakeholders.

A detailed analysis of this minister of finance will be issued next week. For now, our first impressions are that the honourable minister may be on the right track.

Business Eswatini

Aggregated Opinions and Reactions of the Private Sector to the His Majest KMIII’s 2022 speech.

It was a unanimous vote from private sector respondents that His Majesty’s speech was delivered with impeccable eloquence and gusto and as such, Business Eswatini would like to applaud His Majesty for a job well done. Furthermore, the king was commended for his openness and sincerity by those interviewed particularly for raising some of the pressing issues which the country confronts, both socially and politically. In this regard, the business sector happily noted his renewed commitment to ensuring peace in the land and affirming the long-held tradition of settling matters through consultation and dialogue.

Agriculture

His Majesty stressed the need for water harvesting which is an issue that he has been promoting for many years now. Given the instability and unpredictability of our rain falls owing to the climate change crisis, it is important that we exploit new water harvesting and storage technologies which are now readily available in the market. As a private sector we hope the minister of finance will allocate some support towards the construction of dams in key strategic geographical areas of the country as part of a larger effort towards food security. Agriculture is a backbone sector in our GDP and it would be to our advantage to invest more in it.

Energy independence

Business Eswatini would like to thank His Majesty for broaching the pressing matter of energy independence, and indeed energy sustainability. If there was ever one sovereign risk confronting the country, it has to be that of energy given that we disproportionately depend on one single supplier, which supplier is also in a huge financial mess.  The prospects of power supply disruptions to Eswatini post-2025 are looming large unless the country becomes self-reliant. Also, it has to be noted that, given the shift in our geopolitical landscape, especially in recent months, it would be strategically disingenuous for the country to solely depend on one supplier.

Not to detract the foregoing, it has to be said that the country has made serious commitments to COP26 to drastically reduce its carbon footprint and in this regard, we have committed ourselves to ambitious targets and time lines. As such, we need to be seen by the international community to be good for our word when it comes to climate-change issues. On energy infrastructure, this necessitates that we exploit the full range of green technologies now available in the market – most of which are not only sustainable but also price-competitive. Before we embark on any energy project we need to agree as a country on a formal energy-mix policy and how this ‘mix’ will, combined, ensure that at the end of the day, we achieve the climate targets we have set for ourselves. The private sector is ready and willing to enter the energy space as they already have the green technologies and the funding needed to implement any large scale power generation initiative. We can no longer afford to be oblivious of the deleterious effects of climate change and we all need to take matters into our own hands. The destruction of our roads and the impact on our crops bear testimony to havoc climate issues can cause to our lives and livelihoods.

ICT and Economic Development

That His Majesty singled out ICT goes to show the importance of the role ICT plays in commerce and trade, but also, in education and health. Whilst we had expected the arrival of the 4IR to be at least a few years away, Covid conspired against us to fast-track its unexpected arrival and found the whole country woefully ill-prepared. Lockdowns and in recent times, the social unrest, served to expose the inadequacy of our ICT infrastructure, both in terms of accessibility and robustness but also on the pricing thereof. It is for this reason that we hereby request government to be courageous in making the necessary decisions of deregulating the industry so as to unlock any inherent value concealed within the anticompetitive regulations which for years have deprived the market of fair competition and value-for-money ICT services.

The cost of data is punitively expensive for everyone and has been for years. As such, this needs to be addressed as a matter of priority, and that has to be done over and above the pressing need to equitably provide access even for rural folk and small businesses especially.

It bears repeating, commercial transactions are now almost exclusively performed online and given the huge cost of our ICT services means that many companies’ profitability is compromised. This is one of many justifications for the country to intentionally invest in this sector and also encourage other players to invest in the sector.

Fiscal discipline

This country has been dogged by poor spending for many years which is why we have found ourselves dealing with a budget deficit which now appears to be perennial. We have always fallen short in terms of cutting our coat to fit our cloth. Reckless spending, or spending on projects whose social and commercial value cannot be readily verifiable, should be something that we avoid. It is on this aspect that we hereby call on the honorable Minister of Finance to stand his ground when necessary and refuse to be railroaded into allocating funding for projects whose justification is vanity, of which there are many. We advocate for prudent spending by the minister to ensure that there is no need to raise taxes.  Tax payers are already taxed to the bone and are too tax-weary to carry another burden of tax. We also hope that the fiscal consolidation will carry on in 2022 and ensure that government finally pays off in full her outstanding debts with the private sector. While advocating for fiscal discipline we are not unmindful of the national need to start to meaningfully address matters of social protection which will, justifiably, need government spending.