Parliament yesterday authorised government to borrow over K6 billion (about K23.5 million) from Export-Import Bank of India for the development of a new water source for Blantyre Water Board (BWB).
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe presented the bill in Parliament yesterday amid sentiments that government fails to utilise borrowed funds and accusations that it was favouring people in urban areas than their rural-folk.
Through the bill, Gondwe asked Parliament to authorise government to borrow money from India to allow BWB finance the construction of water supply system from Likhubula River in Mulanje to Blantyre water supply area.
Reads the Bill: “The objective of the Bill is to authorise the Minister of Finance, on behalf of Malawi Government, to borrow from the Export-Import Bank of India sums of not exceeding $23.5 million for the purpose of financing the construction of a water supply system from Likhubula River to Blantyre area and for no other purpose.”
However, the wording “for no other purpose” did not go down well with some members of Parliament (MPs) who wondered why people from other districts such as Mulanje, Thyolo and Chiradzulu should not benefit from the water supply system.
But Gondwe explained that the people from other districts will also benefit from the project.
He said government has come up with solutions to the water problems that have rocked the country’s major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
Said Gondwe: “We have a solution to all water problems in our cities. Blantyre will now be looking at getting water from Mulanje. In Lilongwe, a feasibility study will be carried out soon to see the possibility of tapping water from the underground lake.
“The challenge is that studies show that the underground lake is about two kilometres. It will be expensive.”
He said there were also efforts being made to locate new sources of water for Mzuzu City.
Most MPs who contributed to the Bill questioned the capacity of BWB to carry out such a project, wondering whether people in Mulanje, Thyolo and Chiradzulu will also benefit from the project as well as members’ concerns that people in urban areas are favoured.
Dedza East MP Juliana Lunguzi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said she was sceptical of the Bill because of the way government has handled loans of that nature that she said was difficult to monitor because most of the times the loan infomations does not have details.
She asked the Minister of Finance to provide a blue print of the Bills so that relevant committees of Parliament would be able to follow how government have used every cent that it borrowed.