Hon. Folks, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe won an easy applause simply by saying the obvious—we’re broke, can’t squeeze a tambala from donors for the much-needed budget support and we’ve no choice but to reduce further this year’s National Budget in nominal terms.
Nominal because run-away inflation and the kwacha volatility did the initial real chop of the budget already.
Having the remainder chopped further by K23 billion translates into Malawians reeking more poverty when our wish is to move out of this web where we’ve languished since independence in 1964.
As we’ve already seen, we’ve been too poor to even feed patients in public hospitals even before trimming the budget. I guess when depreciation continues to bite (ignore Goodall’s spin that it has reached its equilibrium) we’ll reach a scenario where doctors in our crammed public hospitals will have to randomly select who to treat and who to watch as they embark on a needless journey to the mortuary.
As for our crammed public schools where a teacher has a class of 90 or more pupils, the freeze on teacher recruitment may help maintain the status quo—poor standards of education, and it has been this bad for the entire 21 years of multi-party democracy.
But what if Goodall’s plan for resuscitating the economy doesn’t work?
He talked about encouraging the growing of legumes as a short-term strategy for diversifying forex sources. In the long term, government hopes to mint forex from mining.
Now, considering that a presidential term office is five years, when will the short term nandolo strategy, which DPP talked about in the election campaign, begin to translate as an alternative source of forex?
Will it be this year when the outlook for 2016/17 is already bad due to draught in the South and floods in the North?
As for mining, Kayelekera uranium mining has hit a wall. We talk about oil exploration on Lake Malawi when the world is looking for alternative cleaner sources of energy.
Besides, we don’t seem to have the necessary instruments to attract investors as attested to by the failure of a multi-billion hotel project in Mangochi, airport city at Lumbadzi in Lilongwe. The Sena Corridor and even Kayelekera mining itself also faced hostility that could scare away other potential investors.
The point I am making is that, now that donors are tough on us, we should realise that there is a greater possibility that our woes can get much worse than now when we are among the five poorest countries on Africa.
Which is why Goodall’s mid-year budget should have spoken both to IMF which wants certain things done to resume giving us the extended credit facility and the electorate who expect their leaders to show readiness to suffer with them in these hard times.
There’s a lesson folks in government can learn from President John Magufuli of Tanzania.
He champions austerity by first chopping the trappings of his own office and the Cabinet. Yet the economy of Tanzania is much bigger than ours and they export more, attract more foreign investors, have a much higher GDP per capita and enjoy much higher living standards (as measured by HDI) than us.
Goodall should convince APM that he can still enjoy a Beverly Lifestyle amid our excruciating poverty even if the State Residences budget were to be cut by half. Hiking its recurrent budget by K150 million is a political mistake, especially when in the same breath, the Anti-Corruption Bureau budget gets the chop.
It’s ACB that’s saddled with increasing Cashgate cases to resolve in the shorted period possible. It’s also to ACB that we all look to in the fight against corruption which continues to erode 30 percent of public revenue every year. ACB needs a budget hike, not a chop!
Gooodall shouldn’t have allocated extra K2 billion to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs especially now when there isn’t much to show for such investment. There’s no clear “diplomatic offensive” strategy to win back the trust of our development partners.
The increased allocation only strikes me as a gesture of loyalty by ensuring that a ministry headed by the all powerful ally of APM, George Chaponda, is properly resourced even when the little that was more wisely invested in road construction has been further reduced. Welcome to the Malawi of potholes!
Again, why should ministers continue to get 1 000 litres a month when they reside in Area 10 or 12 and work at the Capital Hill, a distance of five minutes? Why should they continue to fly business or first class at the expense of poor Malawians who can’t even be properly fed when admitted to public hospitals? n