This week some members of Parliament asked Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to stop providing what they described as useless “subsidies”.
Among other things, they said government should start implementing programmes that would truly help Malawians move out of poverty.
They singled out the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP) widely known as Malata and Cement Subsidy and the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) as some of the programmes that were not helping Malawians.
The MPs included Dedza East Juliana Lunguzi and Salima Central legislators Felix Jumbe who chair the Parliamentary Committee on Health and Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, respectively. They were speaking during the launch of the 2015 National Human Development Report launch at the Malawi National Assembly which was attended by chairpersons for other parliamentary committees.
Lunguzi said the country needs to come up with legislation without which the President can just wake up and make pronouncements and the whole country continues doing wrong things. She described the Malata and Cement Subsidy programme as politically motivated and that no beneficiary would repay the loans the programme was providing.
On his part, Jumbe said it was time government stopped addressing the symptoms of poverty through continuation of Fisp and instead asked government to start helping commercial farming to make the country food secure. The sentiments by the two legislators come against the backdrop of a highly scaled-down Fisp while the Malata and Cement Subsidy programme is altogether missing in the 2016/17 National Budget Gondwe presented two weeks ago. In the proposed 2016/17 National Budget, Fisp has 600 000 beneficiaries chopped off and will benefit 900 000 at a cost of K31.5 billion.
The two legislators were spot on except that they fell short of saying the whole truth. There are many subsidies around which are choking the budget and the legislators are beneficiaries of some of them. It is tantamount to applying double standards when the legislators want some subsidies removed simply because they are not direct beneficiaries and retain the largesse that extend to the MPs.
Our legislators are among the biggest beneficiaries of subsidies from the National Budget. The 193 MPs are entitled to K24 million personal loan cars each and many other freebies. Ask me how these loans are repaid. If I go to a bank today to get a loan I will repay it at the prevailing bank interest of around 40 percent. But it is the taxpayer who foots 50 percent of the principal on the personal vehicle loans for MPs. It is you and I, the taxpayer, through the national budget who pays 90 percent of the interest on the same car loans. These freebies were determined by the same MPs who are now agitating for the total removal of subsidies for the poor.
If this is not double standards then nothing is. Why should the legislators sound holier than thou when they are among the looters of the national budget by allotting to themselves mouthwatering and lucrative privileges (in their conditions of service)? Our legislators have no moral high ground to deny others what they themselves are sumptuously enjoying. Zisamakomere mbuzi kugunda galu. If the economy is going north—as it is now—it is only fair that no one should live in opulance.Much as subsidies are really useless and should go, I also totally agree with the Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe that change will not be easy because it is not easy to hit yourself where it hurts most. Khoswe akakhala pamkhate sapheka (kayuni asani kaja pawuta kabayika cha). Our MPs have failed the nation big time on many issues including failing to discuss and pass relevant laws to address problems facing the country.
The MPs removed Section 64 of the Constitution on recall because they know it will hurt them when they cannot deliver. So, with due respect to the merits of getting rid of the subsidies from the national subsidies, please spare us applying double standards. You are not the right people to talk about removing subsidies