Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday passed a K1.454 trillion National Budget for the 2018/19 fiscal year—after dramatically forcing the government to increase their salaries and allowances and increase development funding.
With the parliamentary Order Paper showing there were only 15 votes to screen before the passing of the budget in the Chamber in Lilongwe yesterday, the MPs paralysed the key Committee of Supply budgetary process, saying they could not proceed unless their needs, especially perks, were taken care of by government.
Earlier in the week, the legislators had asked for a 10 percent increase to their salaries and allowances.
They also pressed government to top up on constituency and local development funds (CDF and LDF), now that development projects have stalled and as they need to complete the projects in a few months—before the Tripartite Elections next year.
Business was duly suspended in the House, to make way for discussions over the issues raised by the MPs.
After about an hour of the discussions, the legislators seemed cheerful as Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa and Leader of the Opposition Lazarus Chakwera announced that the issues had been resolved.
The MPs then went into a fast-forward mode in approving the votes, with First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje, as chair of the Committee of Supply, proving her experience in handling the often-dicey session well.
Although much time had been lost to the discussion and a tea break, the legislators finally approved all the 15 votes, and passed the budget at 12.35pm—almost the normal time Friday sessions end.
When Mcheka-Chilenje announced the passing of the budget, many MPs erupted into hand-clapping, with others giving a standing ovation, probably in saluting themselves and their Speakers.
Both Nankhumwa and Chakwera expressed joy that the budget had been passed after substantive debates by members on both sides of the House.
“The queries the MPs had tabled were resolved, including the outcry for salary and allowance increases,” said Nankhumwa. He did not give further details.
He said the key Appropriation Bill will be tabled on Monday, adding that the House will also tackle several other issues of national interest.