Reactions to the fuel price increase yesterday filtered into the National Assembly where legislators demanded an explanation from government on measures to protect the vulnerable against corresponding increases in prices of goods and services triggered by the same.
The majority of the members of Parliament (MPs) wondered why the price increase was coming at a time when globally oil prices are on the decline.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe’s explanation that the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) was being depleted sparked more questions as legislators demanded to know the extent of the depletion. Some feared a recurrence of the 2011/12 fuel crisis.
Moving a motion on the matter, Kasungu West MP Alex Major (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said the fuel price increase would run contrary to government assertions that the economy was performing well because ordinary people would be heavily affected by it, coming not long after another increase.
Supporting the motion, Salima North West MP Jessie Kabwila (MCP) evoked feelings of pity for a majority of Malawians who live just below the poverty line whose livelihoods would be affected when prices of food and rentals go up.
She said: “In a country where there is so much poverty, we should know that we are increasing the gap between the poor and the rich. There are women in business who are toiling but when the price of fuel goes up, they will have less capital because of low buying power.”
While other MPs debated on substantial issues, some legislators such as Lilongwe Msozi South’s Vitus Dzoole Mwale alleged that the fuel price increase was a ploy by government to siphon money for campaign through fuel levies.
In his contribution, Nkhata Bay Central MP Ralph Mhone (People’s Party-PP) noted that fuel price increases seem to come at a time when farmers are going back to the field and would trigger price increases of farm inputs such as fertiliser.
In response, Gondwe said the government would avoid a crisis like that of 2011 when there were no resources to purchase fuel.
He blamed the May 2012 policy of automatic pricing mechanism, implemented by the Joyce Banda administration, for the fuel price increases.