Malawi’s major donors have described President Peter Mutharika’s speech he delivered today morning during the opening of the 46th Session of Parliament as a frank and sincere assessment of the country’s situation.
However, the donors have urged President Mutharika to match action to his Parliament address promise on turning the fortunes of the country.
The donors in particular, welcomed Mutharika’s promise to enact the much anticipated Access to Information Bill (ATI) and Land Bill, saying the move would usher in a new era of transparency and accountability.
Mutharika’s 24-minute address was closely watched closely by Malawians and international community. Among them, envoys of nations that once contributed 40 percent of Malawi’s budget but who have now suspended direct budget aid for various concerns, chief among them, poor financial management.
Representatives of the IMF, World Bank, Britain, US, Germany and UK—speaking separately shortly after Mutharika finished the address, welcomed the address with caution, describing the speech as promising but emphasized the need for caution.
World Bank Country Representative Laura Kullenberg, described the speech as a “frank speech focused on the challenges facing the country,” citing reforms, public financial management and emphasis of prudence as crucial areas.
“It’s important that some critical bills are now about to be tabled; the Access to Information Bill and Land Bill. My feeling is that one statement resonated very strongly: on the fifty year mark, our children will never forgive us, if we continue wasting time,” said Kullenberg.
British High Commissioner Michael Nevin said the speech presented “a realistic picture of the situation in the country” which is good for the country.
He welcomed talk on controlling expenditure and inflation but urged Mutharika to walk the talk.
Nevin, the envoy of Malawi’s former biggest aid provider, further welcomed Mutharika’s stipulated goal of economic independence but said such talk must be matched with action.
“We, collectively as donors’ community in Malawi, are still giving over 1 billon dollars to this country so our support is there but like the government, we want to move to a position where that amount is reducing because Malawi is able to stand on its own feet.
“But to do that you have to create the right environment for trade and investments. He also explained about much better control of expenditure, clamp down on fraud, the path is correct but let’s walk that path,” said Nevin.
Germany ambassador Peter Woeste said while the speech was full of promise, he noted that there is a need to expand more on exact steps government will undertake to achieve its goals.
“First, I congratulate the President for making definitely probably the shortest speech I have ever been able to witness and he mentioned that the government will table two important bills, the Access to Information and Land Bill which is a great way forward.
“He gave a great analysis of the current situation in the country but did not provide much of a way forward but give me much time to analyse the speech,” said Woeste.
US Ambassador Virginia Palmer described the speech as “short and sweet’ but also frank; citing the declaration to end drug theft as inspiring.
“I hope that the government of Malawi will do the three basic things; the reform of the FISP, sticking with IMF targets and full implementation of the public sector reforms that are prerequisite to the IMF programme and the resumption of the EU budget support and the coming in on board of the World Bank,” said Palmer.
EU ambassador Marchel German pledged fresh EU support to the administration and echoed the call to ensure the IMF programme is back on track, urging government to focus on inclusive economic growth.
“The reality is that in Malawi there will still be the need for quite a bit of assistance but over time Malawi needs to graduate and move to trade and investment agenda but what is important is to have the right policies are being implemented,” said German.
IMF representative Geoffrey Oestreicher said the speech acknowledged there is some “catch up to do” for the IMF programme to get back on track and indicated Mutharika understands what needs to be done.
“It was positive that he made reference to the need to regain fiscal discipline, keep the monetary policy at the appropriate stance and move forcefully with reforms to safeguard public resources, I am emboldened by what I have heard,” said Oestreicher.
The address comes as Mutharika opened the 46th session of Parliament which is expected to tackle several crucial matters and discuss a national budget and comes amid looming hunger, continued donor aid uncertainty and worsening economy.