United Democratic Front (UDF) yesterday cemented its intention to participate in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with the launch of a manifesto built on two pillars of delivering inclusive growth and governance.
In its manifesto launched at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe, not far from Kamuzu Institute for Sports where their bedfellow in the last Parliament the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also unveiled its re-election bid, UDF says it would not promise what it cannot deliver within the available public purse.
The party, led by its presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi, said it would focus on areas that would bring inclusive growth through stabilisation of the economy and promotion of sustainable agriculture.
On inclusive growth, UDF plans to stabilise the economy, promote sustainable agriculture, improve infrastructure of transport, energy and water among others.
On agriculture, while the current policy advocates for a targeted subsidy, UDF says if voted into power it would evolve the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) into a social protection initiative that improves yields for the very poorest farmers to better deliver food security.
The UDF delivered a strong stance against tobacco buyers growing the crop, alleging that it is sold at better prices than that of ordinary farmers.
In his remarks, Muluzi, who was accompanied by his running mate Frank Mwenifumbo of Alliance for Democracy (Aford), touched on inclusive education that would ensure no child leaves school before age of 15.
However, much of what the UDF has proposed on primary education is already contained in government policies.
The UDF manifesto has also promised to abolish the quota system and work to increase capacity in tertiary institutions instead.
Muluzi also stressed that the way to root out corruption was to address it at the source, public sector, through reforms that would address loopholes that enable theft and fraud in the government.
On health, UDF has plans to construct district hospitals in the regions which would act as mini referral hospitals.
“First priority would be constructing district hospitals in the cities of Mzuzu and Blantyre which do not have any. The UDF government would make universal health care a reality and ensure that only those who cannot afford to pay for services do so,” he said.
However, the UDF manifesto was shy on openly suggesting means of health sector financing which heavily relies on donor funding, in particular for vaccines, top ups for health workers and reproductive health.
Broadening the tax base is also on the agenda of the UDF, but that plan is not compatible with that to increase the lowest tax threshold to K100 000 and raising the minimum wage to K2 000 a day.
Expounding on this, Mwenifumbo said less people were paying taxes and being charged more and it would be his party’s goal to ensure those who are supposed to pay do so.
The launch event was without pomp and characterised by disorganisation which resulted in the ceremony starting later than the scheduled 8.30am with Muluzi arriving at 3.45pm.
Atupele’s father and the country’s former president Bakili Muluzi, who is one of UDF founders, did not attend the launch, but former first lady and mother to the younger Muluzi, Anne, was in attendance. n