“We need empirical evidence for the country’s economic recovery, and we need think tanks to give us these solutions.”

This assertion was made by Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Hon Moses Vilakati during the celebration of Think Tanks Day 2019 hosted by the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) on Thursday (January 31) at the Mountain Inn.

ESEPARC, in coordination with the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme, joined over 160 organisations for a unique global programme involving a series of coordinated events intended to highlight the important role think tanks play in governments and civil societies around the world.

The theme for this year’s events was ‘Why Facts and Think Tanks Matter’, which was intended to provide concrete examples of the research and educational programmes created by these institutions and how they serve policymakers and the public with the necessary evidence during this technology driven era of constant information.

During the event, Minister Vilakati noted that Eswatini has a contingent of great minds that can be utilised to find solutions to the economic and fiscal challenges currently facing the country. “It is time that we realise that there is a latent energy within the country that can help us. As Emaswati, we have not been critical of ourselves, we take things for granted, hoping that there is a messiah out there to help us.

“As cabinet, we were fascinated when we looked at the CVs of people who applied to be Board members; the number of Masters and PhD holders in Eswatini is amazing. We have great minds in this country, so what is stopping us from coming up with our own solutions?”

Minister Vilakati encouraged ESEPARC to look at best practices around the world that will ensure that the country succeeds. He observed that no-one would like to see Eswatini go under. “We have spent a lot of time looking at how other countries are doing it. We need to find what will work for us.”

Adding, he said it was fortunate that the political will to turn the economy around is there. He said government is willing to listen to Emaswati and even though economic recovery takes a while, “we need to do things step by step but I can assure you that government is committed to turning the economy around and I am personally looking forward to the recommendations brought forth by ESEPARC”.

Meanwhile, Minister of Economic Planning and Development Hon Dr Tambo Gina (who was represented by Vilakati) said think tanks play a fundamental role in shaping policy agendas, as they mobilise expertise and put forward evidence so that government can make decisions from an informed basis of ‘truths’.

“Think tanks are important and most importantly, ESEPARC is very close to my heart. Given my previous experience with ESEPARC, I know that think tanks matter. They push innovative change and build networks and communities through which they nurture and spread ideas and catalyse action. There is no doubt that ESEPARC has played that role and has played it very well in our economy, and as His Majesty’s government, we are very grateful,” he said.

Dr Gina noted that the country needs new information and more evidence translation on what works and what does not. He said Eswatini needs practical examples and well thought out economic models to inform government planning and decision-making, as having facts allows policymakers to diagnose the root causes of the economic problems and understand the opportunities that lie hidden in plain sight.

Outgoing ESEPARC Executive Director Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini thanked His Majesty’s government for the continued support they have given to ESEPARC. He observed that ESEPARC is a government owned think tank that falls under the ministries of Finance and Economic Planning and Development.