President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address is often predictable. Just like the year before there is not much one can take home. We just have to live with this fact.
That’s why my concern this week is rather the conduct of business by our honourable members of Parliament when they meet.
Often times, meetings such as the one opened on Friday become messy and a tag-of-war between government and the opposition for obvious reasons. And as we approach 2019, some lawmakers will try to justify why they deserve a sit in the House by raising unnecessary issues that do not benefit the people but themselves and their party.
This will not be the first or last time. Malawians have been witnessing this bad behaviour for a longtime, but surely, MPs must put this to an end. Even the issue of attendance must be resolved so that we, the voters do not feel cheated.
Prolonged sittings are not only a waste of time but also expensive for a bicycle economy such as ours. We know times are hard, but should it really take MPs three months to discuss and pass the National Budget?
Word on the street is that, Malawians want the budget scrutinised and passed on time, because for most businesses new tax measures to be introduced this year are crucial in boardroom decisions—for investors to decide whether to reinvest or not in our economy.
Even the local man on the street gets anxious with the national budget. While a few will be looking at how their salaries will be impacted, a majority of the unemployed will be looking to the budget for business opportunities. That’s why we, on the streets, do not expect the opposition to hold the whole process to ransom for political gains.
There is also one more worrying thing about our MPs, it is alleged corruption and criminal accusations. Our MPs are supposed to play the watchdog role to the Executive, but how can they perfom that role, when some of them are being investigated for corruption or clandestine activities such as smuggling goods into this country?
MPs as people responsible for making laws of this country should not be the first ones to break them. Our Constitution places tremendous expectations in our leaders, hence, it calls for leadership and integrity from State officers, who are elected officials.
We on the streets too, want leaders who are objective, honest, competent and impartial in their service delivery. Lawmakers should also undertake their functions without prejudice.
Parliamentary committees too have in recent times been opaque in their deliberations and manner in which they sometimes conduct business, raising questions on their suitability and fidelity to Malawians, transparency and accountability.
I am saying all this because the concern of Malawians now is the need to ensure that public funds are used for the development of the country. To do this Parliament must lead by example on all fronts. Parliamentarians must promote openness, transparency and accountability at all times. Not their self interests.