…Punches holes into his State of the Nation Address
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera yesterday launched a scathing attack on President Peter Mutharika’s attempts to blow his own trumpet on the back of economic reforms, describing his State of the Nation Address as bureaucratic machinations.
In his official response to the address in Parliament in Lilongwe yesterday, Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, further described the President as an “Executive babysitter”.
Chakwera said the President fell short of outlining the harsh realities the country is facing and instead waxed lyrical about the “bureaucratic machinations” of his government, a word he said the President mentioned more than 180 times compared to “Malawians” which appeared only 12 times in the address.
Said Chakwera: “But Malawians do not want a busy government. They want a productive one.”
He added: “In fact, while the address was titled Fulfilling Our Promises, it would have been more fitting for it to be called Inflating Our Promises. This is because even though Malawians have waited a whole year, or 20 percent of the President’s term, to see positive changes, President Mutharika chose to make even more promises.”
However, Chakwera’s response, which drew applause from the opposition backbenchers, did not go down well with the government side led by chief whip Henry Mussa who launched into a verbal tirade accusing Speaker Richard Msowoya of gagging him when he sought a point of order.
“The chair is allowing members to continue flouting our own rules. I want to express my disappointment in the way the chair is proceeding. Would you allow anybody in here to refer to the President as a liar? Answer me that!” Mussa said during a heated exchange with Msowoya.
As Chakwera made his remarks, most members of Parliament (MPs) on the government side stood up in protest on a point of order after Msowoya denied Mussa and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation George Chaponda a chance to speak.
Mutharika’s public sector reforms and specifically the transfer of powers from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) did not impress Chakwera who said all he had done was to transfer those powers to other ministries which are still under his authority.
Government’s borrowing in the past year also came under Chakwera’s radar as he wondered who authorised it when Parliament had not given the government mandate to do so.
He said: “Where is our sanity as a country that is in the midst of grinding poverty, shoddy public services, meagre salaries for teachers and police, for example, we have the temerity to give Reserve Bank of Malawi K6 billion to bail out crooks who do not want to pay back what they owe Malawi Savings Bank?”
On the sale of State-owned Malawi Savings Bank (MSB), Chakwera cheekily asked Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha who, Chakwera said, was chief executive officer at the bank when loans that became “toxic assets” were granted, to shed more light.
While Mutharika on Tuesday touted the record three months import cover that Malawi is experiencing, Chakwera described this as mere lies and deception, claiming that individuals and companies have no purchasing power to enable them import raw materials for industries as evidenced by the reduced revenue collection by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA).
The MCP leader also claimed that the government manipulated the kwacha in December last year to “score cheap political points.”
In his response, leader of People’s Party (PP) in Parliament Uladi Mussa followed through on the leader of opposition’s thinking alleging that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration was “claiming ownership” of PP projects such as the national stadium in Lilongwe “for lack of nothing to show” in the one year in office.
He also doubted Mutharika’s plans to construct eight new roads starting this coming financial year when local councils were just consuming resources without tangible developments.
General debate on the President’s address is scheduled to start today.