As President Peter Mutharika opens the 2018/19 budget meeting on Friday, opposition political parties have asked government not to fool voters with a financial plan that make false promises to Malawians ahead of the 2019 elections.
This will be the last Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration budget presentation before the May 2019 Tripartite Elections.
But during the mid-year budget review, government outlined 85 infrastructure projects which were at various stages of completion but only 15 were earmarked to be completed by the end of the year, yet more foundation stones for new projects were laid, something that has raised the opposition and civil society organisation’s eyebrows on the DPP’s sincerity on the projects.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on finance Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said in an interview the DPP government should not attempt to implement what it failed to achieve within 12 months just to entice voters.
“Malawians should know that a party that fails to deliver in four years cannot deliver in 12 months. MCP expects a substantial contribution in this budget towards Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC]. We should not expect donors to fund our elections,” he said.
Kusamba Dzonzi said his party expects Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to provide answers on “an illegal bailout of Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc)” as well as other unplanned expenditures noted in the budget ending June 30.
He said for the first time, MCP expects the DPP administration to present a budget that speaks to Malawians not the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“This should not be a political budget that makes empty promises to the youth and give the impression that all is well just to woo voters. Our hope as Malawi Congress Party is that this government will finally do the needful and present a budget that ensures growth of the economic sector and provides jobs for all,” said Kusamba Dzonzi.
As the budget deficit continues to increase due to poor revenue collection, domestic borrowing stands at K1.1 trillion as of June 30 2017, translating to 25.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) above the 20 percent accepted levels.
MCP and People’s Party (PP) have on several occasions faulted government for heavy borrowing to finance national budgets.
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson on finance John Chikalimba said the party expects a budget that will be implementable by May 2019 not one whose main purpose will be to garner votes for the DPP.
“It should not just be about the numbers, but about what can be done with the money. The K2 trillion might sound like a lot but where the power sector is significantly reducing production and manufacturing, there will be low revenues and the budget will perform poorly again,” he said.
On elections, Chikalimba agreed with MCP that the DPP government should not expect donors to fund major components of the electoral process but that the government should wholly fund the polls.
During the 2018/19 budget consultations the Ministry of Finance organised, Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo said this would be a youth development focused budget with substantial investments on technical and higher education.
The government has progressively increased funding to the Higher Education Students’ Loans and Grants Board but the demand for loans and grants by vulnerable students continues to increase.
Several stakeholders also observed that the slow implementation of resilience policies to respond to weather shocks such as dry spells have resulted in low agricultural production and threatens to stagnate economic growth.
In their presentation, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) asked the government to propose investments in large scale mechanised farming to improve production not smallholder farming.
Ecama also called for the review of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) with the view of analysing its relevance.
On its part, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) appealed to the Ministry of Finance to increase allocation to the health sector in line with the Abuja Declaration with particular consideration of increasing the Other Recurrent Transactions vote for fuel to cater for standby generators at district hospitals.
In an interview, Leader of House Kondwani Nankhumwa said following the budget statement presentation on May 18, there will be a two-week cluster meeting where members of Parliament will be expected to scrutinise the budget so that less time is spent on Committee of Supply. n