Swaziland (eSwatini) is seeking US$207 million from the International Monetary Fund as its economy continues to slide because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Swazi Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg said the money was needed ‘to cushion the budget and help address urgent balance of payment needs’ created by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Swaziland is already in recession and international trade and tax collections within the kingdom have been badly hit since March 2020 when many businesses were forced to lockdown.

In a statement on Tuesday (28 July 2020) Rijkenberg said Swaziland would seek the money from the IMF’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) which had been set up to help countries to help counter the effects of coronavirus.

Rijkenberg said the coronavirus crisis had ‘severely affected eSwatini’s economy, exacerbating pre-existing economic challenges’ which had led to ‘a significant contraction in economic activity’.

As of 27 July 2020 the Ministry of Health had reported 2,316 positive cases of coronavirus in Swaziland and 24 deaths.

He added the government had been forced to spend money on a package of measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis that it had not budgeted for. He said, ‘The package includes additional health spending, ramped up food assistance programs, increased social protection transfers and improved access to water and sanitation facilities for the vulnerable. To accommodate this additional expenditure, additional resources have had to be mobilised, which would have worsened Government’s fiscal position, which had already been in a precarious state prior to the emergence of the scourge.’