President Lazarus Chakwera says his administration is determined to build a new Malawi “one step at a time, one day at a time” despite the impact of Covid-19 frustrating achievement of election campaign promises.
Delivering his televised Eighth National Address on the War on Covid-19 from Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe last evening, the President was also upbeat that the fight against the pandemic will be won.
He said: “In summary, we will never give in to despair and we will never give in to negativity. We are determined to ensure that there is macroeconomic stability within the economic framework within which we will be operating.
“We are determined to build a new Malawi, one step at a time, one day at a time. And while we build this new Malawi, we will keep up the good fight against this pandemic and it is a fight we will win.”
In his address, Chakwera, who quit the pulpit as president of Malawi Assemblies of God in 2013 to join frontline politics, used biblical analogy to deliver his message home. He said the country is in economic wilderness, but would still reach the promised land of Canaan.
The President outlined a number of challenges frustrating delivery of economic programmes to turnaround the economy, but said the administration will not give into negativity and cynicism. The highlighted challenges included the shrinking global economy, dwindling revenue base on the domestic scene and increased domestic borrowing.
Sounding poetic, Chakwera said: “I wish I could tell you that the government I inherited was the beginning of life in Canaan. But that is simply not the case.
“The wilderness we entered 245 days ago is a government presiding over an economy of falling revenues.
“The wilderness we entered 245 days ago is a government presiding over an economy of rising costs.”
He also detailed the cushioning measures his administration has put in place, including subsidised maize prices at Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation depots, cash transfers and K40 billion loan fund he said would be revised upwards to the K75 billion promised during the campaign.
Chakwera hailed his Tonse Alliance administration’s flagship subsidy programme, the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) which benefitted 3.7 million farming families, surpassing its predecessor Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme which targeted 900 000 beneficiaries.
He said the maize outlook was promising and attributed it to AIP.
Said Chakwera: “The flourishing maize fields around the country speak for themselves.”
On cash transfers, the President said 31 percent of the eligible households have already benefitted in the four cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu. He also mentioned the gazetting of new minimum wage of K50 000, increased pay as you earn zero-rated bracket from K45 000 to the first K100 000, removal of duty on Covid-19 relevant products such as soap as some of the cushioning measures.
Chakwera also said his administration will start settling arrears the previous administration owed businesses after National Audit Office verification with priority given to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
He said K1 billion has been set aside for acquisition of masks from local SMEs to ensure liquidity in the local communities.
Furthermore, the President said the administration activated the emergency liquidity assistance to support banks and extended the Reserve Bank of Malawi’s moratorium on loan repayment for a further six months.
Chakwera also commented on several campaign promises, including creation of special economic zones, the ambitious infrastructure agenda which includes flagship roads, housing, railway, the free electricity and water connection and ultimately, the one million jobs which he said were encompassed in most programmes already. He said soon his administration will quantify the achieved targets.
Reacting to the speech, Centre for Social Accountability executive director Willy Kambwandira welcomed the address, but said the lack of clear timelines for delivery of key promises was still a concern.
“What is important is that the President should tell us a time frame for the pledges because these are issues that are important to many Malawians particularly those who voted for the Tonse administration.
“It is also important to note that all these are plans are actually feasible if we can cut on corruption and wastage of resources,” he said.
Chakwera ascended to the presidency after winning the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020. He led a nine-political party Tonse Alliance that ousted former president Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party.