The country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima yesterday faulted President Peter Mutharika and his Cabinet colleagues for allegedly demonstrating l i t t l e commitment in the fight against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Vice-President, who provided a litany of solutions to government to contain the virus, also highlighted what he called gaps in the way the State is handling all matters surrounding Covid-19.
During a news conference at the UTM Digital Command Centre in Area 10, Lilongwe, Chilima commended Mutharika and his Cabinet members for committing 10 percent of their salaries to the Covid-19 fight, but described the gesture as “too little and insignificant”.
He was apparently reacting to the President’s measures announced on Saturday night as part of the national response to prevent the spread and mitigate the
impact of Covid-19.
On Sunday, Chilima, who formally fell out with Mutharika in June 2018, told The Nation he had committed 100 percent of his salary towards Covid-19 fight initiative for the next three months.
Yesterday, he said: “I sincerely request the President and Cabinet members to at least donate 50 percent of their salaries and fuel allocations to go toward Covid-19 response.
“Furthermore, I propose that ministers should not be given any allowance as they undertake their duties in the inter-ministerial committee on Covid-19.”
Chilima, who is UTM Party president, also wondered why the country only has three testing centres—two in Blantyre and one in Lilongwe—with none in the Northern and Eastern regions.
While the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 pandemic has been making statements, assuring the public that the country is well prepared to fight the vice, the Veep on the other hand, said he sees many glaring gaps in the country’s preparedness describing them to be below 10 percent.
On effectiveness of the testing equipment, Chilima bemoaned that while Malawians have been told that some tests which were done on some suspects first turned our negative, and that it was surprising that the same patients later tested positive.
At the weekend, Society of Medical Doctors president Amos Nyaka resigned barely a day after writing government, demanding the recruitment of more health workers and availability of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers’ safety as well as reconsideration of their remuneration in the wake
Covid-19. of the country’s response to
Chilima bemoaned the lack of mass testing of people, saying government is not prepared to protect the people.
He said: “We cannot have 20 000 testing kits for a population of 18 million people and claim to be serious about fighting coronavirus.”
While asking Mutharika to consider turning idle State Residences namely Zomba, Mudi in Blantyre, Area 12 (the Vice-President’s official residence), Mtunthama and Mzuzu into quarantine centres, Chilima also asked him to consider operating from Kamuzu Palaceto cut costs, saying that is where the seat of government is based.
By staying in Blantyre, he argued that government is losing more money paying hotel bills for Cabinet ministers government officials and his support staff.
Said Chilima: “This is the time to suffer with the people and abandon luxury.”
On the interventions in the economy, he commended the stimulus package by the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) aimed at sustaining businesses, but said government should equally do more in relieving the economic pressure on ordinary Malawians by considering some of his temporary measures over the next 3 months.
He suggested the removal of value-added tax (VAT) and surtax on all medical equipment and hygiene items such as soap and hand sanitisers to enable more people afford regular hand washing with and use hand sanitisers, which are paramount preventive behaviours promoted by health experts.
“ The government should also reduce pay as you earn [Paye] for middle earners and low earners. The government should reduce corporate tax from 30 percent to 20 percent to help
businesses sustain their operations as well as prevent job losses due to reduced productivity,” Chilima suggested.
He also proposed a reduction in the price of water in poor areas as well as fuel, arguing that when the decrease in landing cost of fuel is fully passed to consumers, the pump price per litre will be K623 for petrol, K704 for diesel and K505 for paraffin.
Following last Saturday’s fuel price cut, the price for petrol was reduced from K930 to K780, representing a 16 percent reduction, while the price for diesel was reduced by 14 percent from K887 to K765. On the other hand, the price for paraffin saw a reduction of about 10 percent to K625 from K693.60.
However, in March 2020, freight on board (FOB) price of petrol, diesel and paraffin decreased by 45.6 percent, 34.1 percent, and 40.9 percent, respectively, when compared to FOB prices which were applied when determining the ruling prices, prompting a public discomfort as the global fuel price slump is way above the margin in the local fuel price cut.
But reacting to Chilima’s fuel price mathematics, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) chief executive officer Collins Magalasi yesterday maintained that it was wrong for people to equate the international pricing to the local pump price build-up.
He s a i d : “Fuel p r i c e determination is not arithmetic or is not one plus one. We don’t just copy the international price. There are several other factors that the pricing committee considers. ”
In a separate interview yesterday, Minister of Information, Civic Education, and Communications Technology, who is also government spokesperson, Mark Botomani asked for time to respond to the statement by Chilima and the Covid-19 fight proposals