Vice-President Saulos Chilima will appear in Parliament today to answer questions from members of Parliament (MPs) in his capacity as Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms.
Making the announcement in the august House yesterday, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda appealed to on the legislators to show respect to the Vice-President as he responds to their questions.
He said: “Unlike the incidental unbecoming behaviour that some legislators displayed last time the Vice-President was in the august House to answer questions, this time I expect the legislators to accord the Second Citizen total respect.
“We have some few members who want to become famous, to steal the show away from the Vice-President while in the House. Our standing orders are clear that the decorum should be the order of the day.”
Chimwendo Banda also expressed hope that the MPs will ask questions which will help in the country’s development.
During the session yesterday, MPs recated to the proposed K1.99 trillion 2021/22 National Budget which Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu delivered on May 28 2021.
Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe, speaking in his capacity as Lilongwe Msozi North MP (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), advised Treasury to carefully analyse causes of rising prices of cooking oil other than entirely faulting the introduction of value added tax (VAT) as the only cause.
He said his findings from neighbouring countries show that Tanzania and Zambia, among others, removed VAT on cooking oil to do away with price spikes on the products, but prices did not go down.
Said Gwengwe: “Covid-19 is posing a new challenge. As vaccine uptake surges, global demand is now rising, triggering price increases in commodities. This needs to be dealt with wisely. Zambia has reduced VAT on cooking oil but prices have not gone down.”
There have been concerns from consumers on the rapid increase of prices for cooking oil after government introduced VAT on the commodity in the 2020/21 National Budget.
On his part, Neno South legislator Mark Katsonga (People’s Progressive Movement-PPM) called for the review of business and holiday forex allowance to stop its abuse by public officers, arguing that holiday allowances in foreign currency facilitate smuggling.
He also called for a complete overhaul of all social protection programmes that the Tonse Alliance administration inherited such as Mtukula Pakhomo, National Economic Empowerment Fund, Affordable Inputs Programme and Malata Subsidy, saying there are glaring inefficiencies that must be eradicated.
Katsonga observed that if inefficiencies in the programmes are not examined, they will affect the attainment of the wealth creation and self sustenance goals in the country’s new development blueprint, the Malawi 2063 Vision as it will encourage the dependency spirit among Malawians.
Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) urged government to ensure that carbon tax funds collected through fuel levy are channelled towards environmental management and conservation.
He said: “We agreed in this House that carbon tax will be used for environmental management and conservation efforts, but to our surprise, the Ministry of Finance is not ploughing back the funds to the line ministry. This anomaly should be corrected.”
In 2019, government introduced carbon tax for motorists to pay when renewing their vehicle certificate of fitness, but the tax was later modified and motorists now pay it as a fuel levy.
Chilenga said the funds have now accumulated to K3.5 billion and urged the government to invest the funds for the intended purpose.
Lilongwe South MP Peter Dimba (MCP) called for an end to budget implementation inefficiencies, saying despite coming up with good budgets, Malawi has stagnated due to poor execution of its financial plans.
“We cannot afford the luxury of time wasting, we need to do away with inefficiencies in the execution of the budget. We need to get value for money by ensuring high standards and high quality of projects,” he said.
In response, Mlusu said he will be presenting a winding up statement for the budget today where he will attempt to respond to all queries and comments made by various stakeholders in Parliament.
He said after winding up debate on the budget statement today, the budgetary Committee of Supply will resume tomorrow where each vote will be scrutinised and passed by MPs.
In his remarks, Chimwendo Banda said he was optimistic that Parliament will pass the budget before June 30 to ensure that by July 1, the country should have a new budget in place in line with legal provisions.