Economy of Swaziland

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The economy of Swaziland is fairly diversified, with agriculture, forestry and mining accounting for about 13 percent of GDP, manufacturing (textiles and sugar-related processing) representing 37 percent of GDP and services – with government services in the lead – constituting 50 percent of GDP.

Contents

Agriculture

Title Deed Lands (TDLs), where the bulk of high value crops are grown (sugar, forestry, and citrus) are characterized by high levels of investment and irrigation, and high productivity. Nevertheless, the majority of the population – about 75 percent—is employed in subsistence agriculture on Swazi Nation Land (SNL), which, in contrast, suffers from low productivity and investment. This dual nature of the Swazi economy, with high productivity in textile manufacturing and in the industrialized agricultural TDLs on the one hand, and declining productivity subsistence agriculture (on SNL) on the other, may well explain the country’s overall low growth, high inequality and unemployment.

Economic growth

Economic growth in Swaziland has lagged behind that of its neighbors. Real GDP growth since 2001 has averaged 2.8 percent, nearly 2 percentage points lower than growth in other Southern African Customs Union (SACU) member countries. Low agricultural productivity in the SNLs, repeated droughts, the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS and an overly large and inefficient government sector are likely contributing factors. Swaziland’s public finances deteriorated in the late 1990s following sizable surpluses a decade earlier. A combination of declining revenues and increased spending led to significant budget deficits. The considerable spending did not lead to more growth and did not benefit the poor. Much of the increased spending has gone to current expenditures related to wages, transfers, and subsidies. The wage bill today constitutes over 15 percent of GDP and 55 percent of total public spending; these are some of the highest levels on the African continent. The recent rapid growth in SACU revenues has, however, reversed the fiscal situation, and a sizable surplus was recorded since 2006. SACU revenues today account for over 60 percent of total government revenues. On the positive side, the external debt burden has declined markedly over the last 20 years, and domestic debt is almost negligible; external debt as a percent of GDP was less than 20 percent in 2006

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