Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Friday described the Tonse Alliance’s first national budget as betrayal to the voters who ushered them into power.
DPP spokesperson of Finance in Parliament Joseph Mwanamvekha said this in reaction to the 2020/21 National Budget Statement which Finance Minister Felix Mlusu delivered in Parliament in Lilongwe on Friday.
He told journalists that several campaign promises have been ignored, saying the budget has failed to, among others things, roll out implementation of the pledged universal fertiliser subsidy, reducing fees for passports, duty free weeks, and zero-connection fees for electricity and water.
The former government purse keeper argued that the budget has instead copied some of the ideas and programmes that his party had introduced and was implementing.
“I have three descriptions for the budget. The first is that Malawians have been cheated. It’s more consumptive than developmental in nature. It’s also a copycat because most of the parts of the budget are what the DPP has done,” he said.
Mwanamvekha further said most Malawians voted for Tonse Alliance because of the promises they made.
“Yet there is no universal subsidy programme but targeted just like we did under DPP. They promised reduction in passports fees, no connection fee. Where are they?” he queried.
Mwanamvekha further argued that every Malawian, including those living in urban areas, should be a beneficiary if the new subsidy initiative is going to be considered universal as the Tonse government pledged in its manifesto.
“Additionally, out of K2.1 trillion of total expenditure, only K511 billion is for development. A very small portion of the budget,” he said.
In contrast, Mlusu pledged that the Affordable Inputs Programme [AIP] will reach out to 4.2 million farm families
“In the 2020/2021 financial year, government will implement the Affordable Inputs Programme where all the 4.2 million farm families will be provided with cheap farm inputs.
“This, Madam Speaker, is not far from being a universal subsidy program assuming an average family size of four people, which gives approximately 16.8 million people that will be covered under this programme out of the 17.6 million people in Malawi. In this regard, Madam Speaker, there is no sampling of farm families to benefit from this programme as every smallholder farmer is covered,” he said.
According to the statement, each farming household will purchase two 50 kilogramme bags of fertiliser at K4 495.00 per bag using an AIP electronic system which will replace paper coupons.
On free water and electricity connections, Mlusu reiterated government’s commitment to ensure implementation of the initiative after reforms at the State utility companies.
The Treasury czar said the outlined programmes in the budget will ensure that one of the key components of the Tonse manifesto—the creation of one million jobs—materialises.
Explained Mlusu: “It has become quite apparent, Madam Speaker, that most of the sectors have enormous potential to generate jobs if certain policy actions and incentives are implemented as a matter of urgency.
“Government will, therefore, implement policy actions and provide appropriate incentives to unleash this potential in sectors such as agriculture, mining, tourism, manufacturing and ICT.
The minister said the job creation agenda will be buoyed by a number of several initiatives that have already been initiated.
Some of the initiatives Mlusu mentioned included establishment of modern and fully equipped job centres which will first be established in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.
“The job centres will assist job seekers to access employment information from employers and vice versa. These job centres will also be connected to government systems that will enable reporting of number of people employed in real time,” he told lawmakers.