President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday engaged the private sector led by Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
In his opening remarks, the President, said his Tonse Alliance administration believes in inclusivity to ensure that Malawians prosper together.
“That mission cannot be achieved without your full participation in this country. Job creation which is the simplest and most uncontroversial way of distributing income among people, is best achieved by nurturing a private sector that is growing and expanding,
and therefore creating more opportunities for more labour,” Chakwera said.
The President said the more the businesses expand, the more people that will be employed, adding Malawi would not change without active participation of economic actors in the private sector.
“As I mentioned in my State of the Nation Address in September, I will give priority to promoting private sector in this country, more particularly the businesses that are export oriented.
‘This country has a limited effective domestic market, despite having an estimated population of 18.5 million because the economy has hardly been growing versus population growth,” he said.
Chakwera, voted into power through the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election, told the business captains that a number of companies share common complaints, the most prominent being scramble for the small sized domestic market.
“Most of your businesses have been asking for a taxation regime that is protective in nature. While that may assist you in the short-term, it does not help you to build the necessary competitiveness that should enable you to withstand competition from imports, and later to start exporting.
“I am further aware that exporters also habour their concerns especially relating to the exchange rate policy. Naturally, exporters would like the currency to be devalued or lose value to align it with those of countries exporting similar goods,” the President said.
He admitted that government has not been kind to the private sector as some of them are still owed arrears in various forms that include tax refunds and rent.
“Corruption has been rampart, denying good businesses opportunities to get contracts. The policy environment has been highly unpredictable and volatile because changes suiting individuals could be made without notice and justification,” said the President.
He said his government was serious about putting these evils to a halt.
After the meeting with Chakwera, MCCCI president James Chimwaza told journalists that they raised a number of issues the private sector has been encountering, including smuggling and Covid-19 challenges, which impacted on their businesses.
He said they made suggestions such as that the sector that faithfully pays tax is the one that is penalised more.
Chimwaza said people that produce right goods and dutifully pay taxes are taken down by smugglers that evade tax, and in the long run, faithful companies suffer from unfair competition.
Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe, also after the Sanjika Palace meeting, said the President has directed that solutions to problems such as smuggling the private sector raised be found.
He said the President has also committed to meet with the private sector often.