Rights activists have described as a mixed bag the maiden national budget of Malawi President Joyce Bandaâ€™s administration tabled in Parliament on Friday.
In a statement released on Sunday, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) argued the budget sets the pace for economic recovery while at the same time there is fear that prices of basic things would rise with removal of subsidies on fuel and electricity.
“For once, we can safely call it a budget of relief, but at the same time a budget with uncertainty,” reads the statement co-signed by CHRR and Cedep executive directors Undule Mwakasungula and Gift Trapence, respectively.
It adds: “CHRR and Cedep also welcome the removal of taxes on some essential items such as newspapers and Internet services. Access to information is a constitutional right and government only risked depriving its own citizens of this right by imposing VAT on newspapers and Internet services.”
The two NGOs have also hailed the safety net packages meant to cushion the poorest of the poor from hardship occasioned by the recent devaluation although they say it is not clear how such packages would go in helping those below poverty levels to survive the impact of devaluation.
“CHRR and Cedep, however, feel the national budget [fails] to live up to the expectations of the citizens in some areas. Clearly, the civil servantsâ€™ 21 percent salary hike is quite an improvement from last yearâ€™s 7.5 percent that left civil servants hurting,” reads the statement.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director Martha Kwataine has also commended government for allocating money to the Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) and the Malawi College of Health Sciences (MCHS) for training purposes.
But Consumers Association of Malawi executive director John Kapito said there is no hope for job creation in the budget, which other commentators have described as a difficult one for ordinary people.