Original Research

Assessing fiscal sustainability in Swaziland

Welcome N. Nxumalo, Nomvuyo F. Hlophe
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 21, No 1 | a1821 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v21i1.1821 | © 2018 Welcome N. Nxumalo, Nomvuyo F. Hlophe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2017 | Published: 19 April 2018

About the author(s)

Welcome N. Nxumalo, Department of Economic Policy Research and Statistics, Central Bank of Swaziland, Swaziland
Nomvuyo F. Hlophe, Department of Economic Policy Research and Statistics, Central Bank of Swaziland, Swaziland


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Abstract

Background: Understanding and assessing fiscal sustainability is essential in ensuring financial and macro-economic stability. Fiscal sustainability has emerged as an important subject for Swaziland given the increasingly volatile government revenues especially those coming through the South African Customs Union (SACU), which threw the country into a severe fiscal crisis between 2010 and 2012, as well as the pressures on increased government spending in the post-fiscal crisis era.

 

Aim: This article primarily focuses on studying whether Swaziland’s fiscal policy remains on a sustainable path or whether corrective measures would be required.

 

Setting: Study focuses on Swaziland, a small open economy that is vulnerable to external shocks. The country also relies heavily on South African Customs Union (SACU) revenues.

 

Methods: The study employs a broad approach to assessing fiscal sustainability in Swaziland covering both deterministic and stochastic analysis. On the deterministic analysis, the article studies the evolution of debt given macro-economic variables and further estimates fiscal sustainability indicators such as the primary gap and tax-gap. From a stochastic analysis, the article uses the Trehan and Walsh Methodology as well as Hakkio and Rush Methodology.

 

Results: Fiscal sustainability indicators reflected that the country is on an unsustainable path with a primary gap and tax-gap of about 7% of gross domestic product (GDP) that has to be corrected. The econometric results also portray an evidence of ‘weak-form’ sustainability in the long-run. This is because public expenditures are rising at a faster pace than revenues thereby rendering government deficits unsustainable in the medium term. The econometric results also suggest a tax-spend hypothesis in the long-run, while short-run developments point to a spend-tax hypothesis. In both instances the correction measure is cutting expenditure, mainly recurrent expenditure.

 

Conclusion: The study recommends corrective measures (mainly cuts in government expenditure) for fiscal policy to be brought back into a sustainable path without which a fiscal crisis is imminent. The recommendations are mainly based on the fiscal sustainability indicators as they are more forward looking for the short to medium term. The article suggests fiscal rules based on these indicators.


Keywords

fiscal policy; fiscal sustainability; tax-gap; primary gap; tax-spend hypothesis

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