This Selected Issues paper focuses on the challenges of small middle-income countries (MIC) in sSub-Saharan Africa (SSA) comprising Cape Verde, Namibia, and the Kingdom of Swaziland. The IMF report summarizes the analytic underpinnings that support the IMF staff’s advice on policies to strengthen macroeconomic stability, foster more inclusive growth, and enhance the resilience of their financial systems. It recommends that macroeconomic policies should aim to rebuild policy buffers to help cushion against large external shocks especially given the prevalence of pegged exchange rate regimes in these economies.
Sub-Saharan Africa is contending with an unprecedented health and economic crisis—one that, in just a few months, has jeopardized years of hard-won development gains and upended the lives and livelihoods of millions.
The fiscal crisis in the Kingdom of Swaziland emanating from a decline in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union and one of the largest public wage bills in sub-Saharan Africa has reached a critical stage. Faced with revenue shortfalls associated with slowing economic activity, uncontrolled public spending, and lack of financing, the authorities continued to deplete central bank reserves and accumulate domestic arrears. The authorities have been able to finance only a minimal amount of expenditure, including wages, utilities, and essential transfers.
In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with government officials, is published at the option of the member country.
The Swazi economy has continued to register sluggish economic activity even as rising Southern African Customs Union revenue contributed to a large fiscal surplus and accumulation of international reserves. The unchecked growth of insufficiently regulated saving and credit cooperatives poses risks to the financial system. Fiscal policy should safeguard priority spending and fiscal sustainability. Executive Directors commend the government’s effort in rebuilding international reserves. Further efforts are needed to improve the quality and timeliness of data to better facilitate policy formulation and monitoring.
This 2017 Article IV Consultation highlights that the macroeconomic conditions have recently deteriorated in Swaziland. In 2016, two shocks—a prolonged drought and a sharp decline in South African Customs Union (SACU) receipts—severely hit the economy, while an expansionary fiscal policy worsened fiscal and external balances. Growth in 2016 stagnated, as agricultural productions declined, and headline inflation increased sharply, mostly owing to rising food prices. Fiscal policy remains on an expansionary course, while the monetary stance has tightened. Despite a pickup in SACU revenue, the 2017 budget envisages a continuation of large fiscal deficits, and further increase in public debt.
The Swaziland economy continues to underperform, reflecting the impact of the global economic crisis. The impact of the crisis has been felt mostly in revenue transfers of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) to Swaziland. Executive Directors welcomed Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR), which focused on restoring fiscal sustainability, improving competitiveness, and strengthening financial supervision. They noted that key challenges are restoring fiscal sustainability, addressing HIV/AIDS, reducing poverty, and creating employment. Directors emphasized the need for fiscal adjustment and budgetary reforms. Directors noted that the banking system remains in good health.
The Article IV Consultation with the Kingdom of Swaziland discusses efforts to broaden the tax base and improve tax administration, in particular through the introduction of a value-added tax and the establishment of a Revenue Authority. The depreciation of the nominal exchange rate along with the South African rand, to which it is pegged, impacted positively on the export sector. Prompt and automatic pass-through of international price increases would also help depoliticize price adjustments.