The United States of America (USA) says the Malawi Government’s flagship Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) is in need of reforms to achieve its objectives and give a return on its investment.
USA deputy chief of mission Andrew Herrup expressed his sentiments in Lilongwe on Tuesday evening during his country’s 243rd Independence Day celebrations.
Herrup, who suggested that reforms be extended to inefficient parastatals, was quick to add that reforms in themselves were not enough. He said implementation of the said reforms is critical.
He said: “To find funds in the budget for development, economic growth and technological advancement, the government must reform inefficient parastatals and programmes like the Fisp that are not achieving their objectives and drain resources,
“Fully empowering and funding accountability institutions will ensure that funds budgeted for education; youth development and research are not diverted along the way.”
The US chargé d’affaires observed that effective implementation of reforms will unlock, invigorate and sustain the potential of Malawians.
He said Malawi also needs leadership from within and outside government, including Parliament, to actualise the reforms.
The US Government position comes against a background of several stakeholders faulting President Peter Mutharika’s stance on maintaining Fisp in the next five years despite calls to have the programme abolished.
Some presidential aspirants in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, notably Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party and the country’s then vice-president Saulos Chilima who led the UTM Party in the race, advocated for universal fertiliser subsidy.
In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) during the opening of the First Meeting of the 48th Session of Parliament in Lilongwe on June 21, Mutharika, despite acknowledging challenges that have rocked the programme over the past years, said Fisp will not stop.
At the reception, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Internal Cooperation Francis Kasaila, who was also the guest of honour, said government will continue to collaborate with the US government to improve infrastructure development as well as sciences and technology.
Since its inception in 2005, Malawi has invested about K398.6 billion in Fisp, an equivalent of a third of the 2018/19 National Budget that expired on June 30, raising calls from opposition parties and other commentators, including Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama), for government to abolish the programme on grounds that it is not achieving its intended purpose.
In January this year, the World Bank attributed Malawi’s low growth in agriculture sector to expenditures in Fisp on maize and fertiliser which, the bank observed, were not well targeted; hence, led to insignificant gains in productivity. In an earlier interview, Ecama president Chikumbutso Kalilombe said government would do well to consider concerns raised on Fisp to improve the programme and contain costs.