Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee has asked government to abolish the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and channel the funds towards irrigation projects which have more potential to make the country food secure.
In its report to the House on the proposed 2017/18 National Budget, committee chairperson Rhino Chiphiko said there was need to assess the impact of Fisp on rural Malawians.
In the 2016/17 National Budget expiring this June 30, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe allocated K33 billion to the programme and has assigned the same amount in the coming financial year.
But Chiphiko said Fisp was rocked with abuse with intended beneficiaries, in some cases, not getting the subsidised fertiliser.
He said: “As a result, Fisp has not produced the intended results, but has continued to dominate a large percentage of the government expenditure budget which would have otherwise been allocated to other productive and social protection programmes.”
Chiphiko added that Fisp was a short-term solution and there was need to assess other relevant programmes that government can use.
He said: “The committee recommends that the government should completely abolish Fisp because the cost of this programme far outweighs its benefits.
“These resources should be reinvested in irrigation and channelled through Green Belt Initiative and commercial farming which has potential for foreign exchange earning and food security.”
The committee also hit at government for borrowing without focus resulting in domestic debt rising to K860 billion.
However, government has only allocated K105 billion towards reducing the debt stock.
In its official response to the budget, opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) described the 2017/18 National Budget as designed to protect the civil servant and not help improve the life of the poor rural voter.
“Our budgets do not finance ideas because they are deficient of any bankable philosophical ideas. What we have are budgets which are designed to finance the government operations only and not economic ideas which would bring more revenue and grow the economy,” said MCP spokesperson on finance Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi.
He said this was the reason civil servants were pushing for more increments without regard for the state of the economy.
Said Kusamba Dzonzi: “It is within the mandate of the Minister of Finance to quiz anyone who is paid from Account Number 1 to justify his/her value adding in the grand economic policy of this country.
“It remains the noble duty of the Minister of Finance to remind everyone who is paid by a taxpayer to refrain from the culture of entitlement when the taxpayer himself continues getting the raw deal as he no longer benefits from non-existent quality public goods and services.”
Concurring with the Budget Finance Committee on Fisp, People’s Party (PP) spokesperson on finance Ralph Jooma urged government to invest in programmes that prepare for weather shocks.
He said sustainable growth could not be attained if the gross domestic product continued to rely on weather conditions.
Said Jooma: “Real economic growth can only be achieved beyond a good harvest. We must bring our harvest into factories and add value before we export in order to earn substantial foreign currency.
“It is also important to know that abrupt policies like the ban of maize export have potential to discourage future production, and so must be avoided.”
Meanwhile, the House has waived Standing Orders to allow chairpersons of cluster committees to present reports after Budget and Finance before going into general debate.
Standing Orders 138 (1) and 190 (1) d state that cluster committees report to the Budget and Finance Committee which compiles one report for submission to the House. n