Barely a day after President Peter Mutharika unveiled additional measures to ease the burden of businesses and individuals in the face of the coronavirus (Covid-19)pandemic, industry has faulted some of the strategies, saying they fall short in addressing key issues.
Industry’s reaction follows Mutharika’s national address in which he outlined measures purportedly meant to protect jobs and incomes as well as protect businesses and ensure continuity of the supply chain and survival of economy.
The President also said government would discuss with Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and the Tourism Association of Malawi to find win-win arrangements that will ensure that there are no redundancies in companies.
But in an interview yesterday, MCCCI chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira said government should first engage specific countries where Malawi imports its raw materials and stressed the need to treat the current situation as an opportunity to promote local the industry.
He said: “Instead of increasing funds to Malawi Rural Enterprise Development Fund [Medf] which we all know is misused, this money should have gone to support industry to produce goods which we have for long time relied on other countries but we can locally produce them here.
“This should be a wake-up call to government to prioritise and incentivise local industry that is capable of manufacturing and proving the things we import outside the country.”
Kaferapanjira said there should also be a deliberate plan between government and the private sector to split roles and responsibilities to ensure that local industry is promoted and raw materials are made locally.
He said government should consider putting the number of Cabinet ministers at a minimal by removing the deputies and also reducing the benefits.
Kaferapanjira said it is not the intention of the private sector to lay off workers, but said when companies are not producing enough, they have no choice but reduce the workforce.
In a separate interview, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi executive director George Khaki, while commending the President for the measures, said the key lies in the implementation of the measures by relevant authorities.
On his part, Malawi Congress of Trade Union secretary general Denis Kalekeni said the union would want to see a further reduction in fuel prices, saying with or without the global trends which have prompted the reduction in the local pump price, government was obliged to protect its people from volatiles.
Ben Kaluwa, professor of economics at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, described the coronavirus pandemic as a “single biggest issue”. He said in an interview that the measures were seemingly holistic and have the potential to give the economy a breather.
Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president Lauryn Nyasulu indicated that Ecama is working on a detailed statement to analyse the measures outlined by the President.
However, she said in broad terms the measures were commendable.
Said Nyasulu: “Covid-19 is a reality and it is important to come up with ways to ensure business continuity while at the same time protecting the citizens and safeguarding their welfare.”
Covid-19 has rapidly spread from China to European countries and the United States of America, and recently it has been reported in 46 African countries, Malawi inclusive where four confirmed cases have been reported.