Leader of the House FRANCIS KASAILA talks to Weekend Nation on next week’s budget sitting and other issues expected to be tabled.
Q. How long will this sitting take?
A. The 2015/16 budget sitting, which starts on Tuesday, May 5, will go on until July 3. As per tradition, the sitting will feature the President’s State of the Nation address which will be debated from Wednesday, May 6 to Friday, May 15 and after that we shall continue with general business for one week that includes outstanding business from the last sitting. On May 20, the House is expected to confirm the new chief justice.
Q. When is the 2015/16 budget statement expected to be presented?
A. The minister of finance will present the 2015/16 national budget statement on Friday, May 22 and after the presentation we shall break for two weeks to allow members ample time to look at the statement so they can make informed and well thought inputs. Thereafter, debate on the budget will start for another two weeks, then from June 22 to 26 we will go into the committee of supply and our expectations are that by June 26 we will have the budget passed.
Q. Some opposition MPs have faulted the budget formulation process, saying it doesn’t accommodate input from the grassroots. Don’t you think these members will work to frustrate the budget since they feel it doesn’t tackle specific issues from their constituents?
A. It’s unfortunate that Malawians have created a culture of opposing where there is nothing to oppose. In as far as we are concerned, consultations are at different levels. District commissioners are supposed to prepare their council budgets which are presented to the local government for inclusion into the nation budget and when preparing their budgets they consult through the district council structures and my understanding is that these structures include area development committee and village development committee members. But you can’t expect the Minister of Finance to go to each village to consult the people, this is unrealistic. Consultations at grassroots are done by other stakeholders such as civil society organisations who go to the grassroots to solicit views and inputs to inform the budget formulation process. Members should know what Malawians expect from them and they shouldn’t go into that House to represent their own interests. As a country, we are going through some challenges and the economy is not yet stable, as such there is no reason for us to start fighting over petty issues. We need to work towards the advancement of our country and I believe both sides of the House realise that.
Q. Which outstanding Bills from the last sitting will be tabled again?
A. There are quite a number of them and they include the Reserve Bank of Malawi Amendment Bill, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Bill, Malawi Institute of Procurement and Supply Bill, Metrology Bill and the Insolvency Bill. Our wish is to finish these and see if we can get some more from the order paper. We will also get some ministerial statements and one of them will be on the crop outlook so that we brief the nation on what the assessment has been like and what government is doing to avert the hunger situation. Outstanding committee reports are also expected to be made.
Q. So, Malawians should expect Parliament to authorise government to purchase extra grain?
A. I believe that the statement by the Minister of Agriculture will highlight what government is going to do and I am sure one of issues will be that of government purchasing some additional maize for restocking and make sure that it’s available in Admarc depots.