Malawi President Peter Mutharika’s outline of reform policies in the public sector and public finance management are yet to convince a section of development partners who have, however, touted the measures as a step in the right direction.
Representatives of the United Nations (UN) and the government of the United States of America (USA) told The Nation in Lilongwe yesterday that it was encouraging for the President to outline the reform programmes in a bid to regain trust of development partners and Malawians at large.
Malawi has been operating without budget support since October 2013 when donors withheld their funding following revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill which British forensic auditor, Baker Tilly, established to be K24 billion between April and September 2013.
Donors finance about 40 percent of Malawi’s recurrent budget and 80 percent on the development side of the budget.
So far, only the African Development Bank (AfDB) plans to provide the government about K8 billion in budget support with the World Bank also hinting at supporting the next budget.
“The public sector reform agenda is a welcome development as there has been a lack of trust in the public financial system. But hopefully as the reform agenda is implemented, trust in that system will be restored,” said UN resident coordinator in Malawi Mia Seppo.
She said it would be interesting to observe how the debate in Parliament would examine the links to prioritised areas in the President’s statement.
Said Seppo: “The speech will be closely examined to see what it means, balance and feasibility of ambitions outlined. The key thing is to make a difference.”
Her US counterpart, Virginia Palmer, said much as she was pleased that Mutharika placed emphasis on public sector reforms and public finance management, implementation and results achieved would be just as important.
Said Palmer: “The US government does not fund the budget in Malawi. So, our projects have not been interrupted because our funds are channelled through other means. But we will continue to work closely with the government on issues which are very close to my heart— public sector and public finance management reforms.”
Other development partners such as Britain and the European Union (EU) said they can only comment on the address after fully digesting it.
In a brief interview on the 2015/16 National Budget outlook, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe hinted that the zero-aid budget policy would continue and he was not optimistic about the return of budgetary support soon.
Said the minister: “I am more concerned with what we can do ourselves than what we can get for free. But it has become very clear that disasters like the floods will affect what we can generate in this coming financial year.”
Gondwe is expected to present his budget statement on Friday, May 22 and he has estimated that it will be a “hard to sell” budget worth K900 billion. The 2014/15 budget that expires on June 30 is worth K770 billion.