Some non-State actors have faulted allocations in recent annual budgets, arguing they are not reflective of Malawi’s long-term development agenda such as the discarded Vision 2020.
The expert, however, say the 2015/16 fiscal plan, just like other recently implemented annual budgets, only focuses or concentrates on short-term special programmes such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
The panellists, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) director of research, policy and partnerships Candida Nankhumwa, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer (CEO) Chancellor Kaferapanjira, National Association of Smallholder Farmers in Malawi (Nasfam) CEO Dyborn Chibonga and Malawi Economics Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa.
They spoke on Monday during a televised panel discussion on the proposed 2015/16 national budget, focusing on the agriculture sector.
Kaferapanjira, while applauding government for allocating over 10 percent of the budget to agriculture sector in tandem with the Maputo Declaration, faulted the national budgets for sidelining key areas such as research and infrastructure.
“A lot of emphasis is given towards special programmes and we are pre-occupied with year-on-year basis programmes and not medium to long-term programmes,” he said.
Kaferapanjira said, for example, national budgets, which he said do not have farmer involvement, fail to repair feeder roads to rural areas, resulting in “farmers being cut out from produce markets”.
He also blamed the budget for failing to invigorate research institutions which he said were vital in bringing new technology before multiparty democracy.
Weighing in, Nankhumwa said it is worrisome for a country to struggle to operationalise the alignment of the National Export Strategy (NES) and the Agriculture sector Wide Approach (Aswap) pillars.
On Fisp, she said government needs to improve the programme’s targeting of beneficiaries by help the productive poor and not just the poor.
On his part, Kubalasa bemoaned the shrinking of the budget allocation to the agriculture sector in real terms, noting that there is a reduction from 19 percent in the 2014/15 budget to 15.1 percent in the proposed 2015/16 fiscal plan.
“What this amount is going to buy will be much lower than was the case if the allocation was still maintained at 19 percent because of inflation rate,” he said.
But Chibonga alleged that between 60 percent and 80 percent of the national budget is spent at Capital Hill and called for the devolution of political power at Capital Hill.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said the cost of Fisp will be limited to K40 billion (US$88.9 million) in the 2015/16, a considerable saving over K59.7 billion (US$132.7 million) spent during the 2014/15 financial year ending on June 30.
“In order to address these challenges, government is seriously considering reforming the future implementation of the programme and is consulting with various stakeholders on the matter,” he said in a budget statement.