Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday asked the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to explain why the proposed 2016/15 National Budget is focusing more on consumption than development.
Secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani, who led the ministry’s team, endured about two hours of queries from the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament during a cluster meeting scrutinising the budget.
The proposed budget that Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe tabled in Parliament on May 27 2016 is estimated at K1.2 trillion with total grants and revenue pegged at K965.2 billion (about $1.4billion) or 22.2 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP).
Of this, K774.8 billion (about $1.13billion) or 80.3 percent will be generated locally while the balance of 19.7 percent will come from development partners.
Public tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is expected to collect K708.8 billion and non-tax revenue will contribute K66 billion.
In the development budget, donors and loans will total K279.8 billion (about $405.4million) with 11.8 percent or K36 billion as local resources.
During the meeting, Mangani defended the budget framework, saying all measures were considered in allocations to different votes. In this regard, he said, the budget cannot be termed as consumptive in nature.
But Dowa West MP Alexander Kusamba-Dzonzi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) wondered how the ailing economy would grow if all the money is being consumed. He challenged Mangani to produce a working civil service whose core objective should be to build the economy.
Observed Kusamba-Dzonzi: “The budget is full of personal emoluments, other recurrent transactions and so little into development. How do we expect to grow if all monies are being spent on travel and other issues? There is no justification for them to be buying expensive cars and saying things are not working and yet they are the ones in government?”
Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP) asked Treasury to explain why the Unforeseen Vote was allocated K1.8 billion which he felt was on the higher side.
On his part, Kasungu North East MP Elias Wakuda Kamanga (PP) asked Mangani and his team to explain the zero increase in Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and increased allocation to local councils.
He said: “You see, the problem is that we think like Malawians that because we are asking for an increase in Constituency Development Fund it means we are greedy or that we are asking for ourselves. This is not true because we are speaking on behalf of the people whom we work for and also the people you work for. This is not for our own interests, not for Wakuda, but for the people.”
He was apparently referring to Mangani’s earlier insinuation that the MPs could be promoting their own interests.
Responding to the queries, Mangani said the budget was development in nature because all matrixes were factored in. He also said there was no justification to starve the entire nation in the name of development.
He said: “We need to take care of our survival. We are lucky in the sense that we now have a prudent budget that even after taking care of our recurrent expenditures the proportion going to the development of the budget is significantly high.
“It is a requirement that two percent of the total proportion of the budget needs to go to unforeseen vote hence that allocation.”
On the CDF, Mangani said the allocation would be looked into. n