Members of Parliament (MPs) last evening passed a K1 149 375 259 646 National Budget for the 2016/17 fiscal year which starts today.
The budget was passed after riding over several last-minute controversies which threatened to rock the key process among the government and opposition members.
However, it was at 18:39 hours when First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje finally declared the budget passed, amid a standing ovation and hand-clapping among most MPs, soon after she had steadfastly steered tough and lively proceedings as a chair of the Committee of Supply that scrutinises ministry votes before passing them.
The afternoon session turned out to be a marathon one in the chamber as MPs passed the final 19 votes.
The National Local Government Finance Committee vote, that had to be defeated and deferred in the morning sitting in the House because the MPs demanded that the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) be increased from K12 million per constituency, was brought back to the chamber.
There was cheering on both sides of the House when Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced that the government had considered the legislators’ demand and had, therefore, increased the CDF to K18 million per constituency.
MPs love the CDF because it brings them closer to the people, during planning processes, and it facilitates tangible development in their 193 constituencies nationwide.
But when the government brought an amended vote on Human Resource Management, that had had an earlier figure of K21.7 billion but came back with an increased figure of K29.5 billion, several opposition MPs expressed suspicion with the government’s move.
However, the suspicions were laid to rest when Gondwe explained that the government had factored in salary increases in particular the lower cadres in the civil service, thereby averting strikes some public workers had given notice of.
In an interview later, a beaming leader of the House George Chaponda expressed happiness that the budget had been passed amid tough debating of issues.
“This means the government can now pursue its development programmes,” he said