Mbabane: Members of Parliament have given the green light to the Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg to secure the E1.7 billion loan for the construction of a new Parliament building.
This comes after Members of Parliament adopted and passed the Report of the Finance Committee on the Export-Import Bank of India (The Construction of the New Parliament Project) Loan Bill, 2020 on Wednesday.
However, government has put its head on the chopping block by making serious commitments in its quest to convince Members of Parliament (MPs) to give the green light.
Government has committed to providing the best in terms of service delivery and most importantly, ensuring that all the constituencies are well taken care of.
The purpose of the Bill is to authorize the minister of Finance to raise a loan not exceeding USD 108 280 000 (around E1.7 billion) from the Export-Import Bank of India for the construction of the building.
The Bill was initially tabled in the House of Assembly on October 26, 2020 with a certificate of urgency.
When moving for the report to be adopted and passed, Chairperson of the Finance Committee, MP Thandie Nxumalo stated that the current Parliament building was old as it was built in 1967 to accommodate a few members.
“The structure is old and dilapidated. Rehabilitating it every year is too costly for government. Worthy of note is that we have the worst Parliament building compared to other countries in the region,” reads the report.
Nxumalo further submitted that the current structure did not give room for future expansion and the operations of Parliament have changed over the years yet the building has not responded to these changes.
According to the report of the committee, the proposed design is to be constructed at Lobamba, Nkhanini. The MPs had to be assured that government was and would continue to ensure service delivery especially since the situation was dire in the communities.
A detailed summary of strategies in place to address a variety of challenges was presented as part of the report. These include food security, poor road infrastructure, shortage of drugs in hospitals, electricity schemes that have been left un-attended for decades and shortage of clean water.
In terms of rural electrification, the MPs have been assured that government has committed to the continuous improvement of the lives of people through ensuring access to electricity, particularly in rural areas.
In particular, it was stated that for the current financial year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy will electrify 4 381 households at a cost of E84.2 million.
In the financial year 2021/2022, according to the report, 6 300 households will be electrified at a cost of E100 million.
For three financial years (2020-2023), 30 081 rural households will be electrified at a cost of E565.2 million to be financed through the Rural Development Fund (RDF), Micro Projects and the World Bank. The infrastructure strengthening, according to the report, will cost E800 million.
The report also contains responses to concerns raised, one of them being whether it was the right time to start a project of this magnitude in view of the fiscal challenges the country was faced with.
The report also contains a response to a concern that one of the conditions in the loan deal was that government would be expected to purchase 66 per cent material from India.
The response provided in the report was that Exim banks operated in such a manner. It was also stated that initially, the content was 75 per cent and that the 66 per cent was a result of intense negotiations.
After the report had been presented and the mover had motivated for it to be passed, almost all the members, including the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo and his Cabinet to debate it.
According to Speaker Petros Mavimbela, a total of 56 members stood up to make submissions. Motshane MP Robert Magongo was first to get the opportunity to submit and he made it known that while he supported the project, he was at pains seeing residents from his constituency faced with water shortage and other challenges.
However, not all the MPs got the chance to make their submissions as a motion was then passed by Mhlume MP to adjourn the debate as it was obvious that they were singing in one voice.
The report states that the construction is a brainchild of a high-level delegation from the Republic of India.