Minister of Foreign Affairs Nancy Tembo has said the public purse will save K268 million following President Lazarus Chakwera’s decision to cancel two foreign trips in adherence to austerity measures.
Briefing journalists alongside her Cabinet colleagues on Monday in Lilongwe, she said the President was scheduled to travel to Vienna, Austria for the Opec Fund for International Development Forum from June 21 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda from June 24 to 25.
Tembo said the President has instead delegated Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola and Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia to represent him at the Opec meeting.
She said she will represent Chakwera at the Commonwealth meeting in Rwanda.
Tembo said Chakwera made the decision to set the tone on austerity measures he recently announced. She said the Commonwealth trip will be funded by the hosts for a delegation of nine.
She said: “Clearly, attendance at such meetings is very important to Malawi since it is crucial for the government to ensure that Malawi’s voice is heard at all these platforms and that Malawi’s interests are taken into account when these organisations are formulating their programmes.”
During the briefing, Gwengwe said Malawians should understand that government has not entirely abolished foreign travel, but restricted them to only essential trips. He said the President can travel abroad when need be.
He said: “Let me say clearly that some trips cannot be avoided where it is a must that the President avails himself physically. For instance, the President will be handing over the Sadc chairmanship to DRC in August, he cannot delegate.”
However, Centre for Research and Consultancy executive director Milward Tobias said while the President should be commended for living by his word, he should have done things differently.
He said: “He should have sent one Cabinet minister to the Opec Fund meeting and Malawi would not lose anything by having no representation at the Commonwealth meeting. Some of such gatherings are simply ceremonial.”
In a separate interview, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira said on Mondaythat while they welcome the measures as demonstrated by Chakwera, they have reservations in the manner the measures are being implemented.
He said the purported K268 million saving from the trips was an indication that the country can save more resources if the measures can be seriously implemented.
Two weeks ago, Chakwera announced austerity measures such as limiting public officers’ foreign travel to three between now and the end of the year and travelling economy class, grounding government vehicles at 6pm, stopping out of duty station meetings and 20 percent cut on fuel allocations for Cabinet ministers.
Besides Tembo and Gwengwe, Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako also attended the press conference alongside Mia and her deputy John Bande.