The 2020/2021 fiscal year budget has drawn mixed reactions from commentators and the general public with others calling it a campaign budget.
Reacting to the 2020/2021 budget presentation by the Minister of Finance on Friday, National Planning Commission Executive Director Thomas Munthali said it is clear that we are prioritising our expenditures as a country.
“In an environment like now, the budget should have been a lot more business unusual. We could just have concentrated on Covid-19 containment and supporting recovery of the economy and livelihoods. But having five areas as focus areas is way too many for instance economic growth, job creation, economic empowerment, mitigation of Covid-19, infrastructure development” said Munthali
He said The 2020/21 National Budget comes at a time when the economy is on a slide downwards due to Covid-19 with likelihood of recession very high.
He said striking a balance in covering for mandatory expenditures that have to be made with or without Covid-19 –basically covering over 91% of all domestic revenues—and ensuring that the other immediate priorities of supporting the Covid-19 vulnerable populations and businesses as well as the fresh elections is a tall order.
He pointed out that while the budget has looked at supporting containment of the pandemic and efforts at economic recovery mechanisms, it has lost the opportunity to begin putting together a fund or mechanism that could generate a pandemic emergency fund because Covid-19 will exist for a while.
Munthali explained that this fiscal year, fiscal prudence should be paramount especially given that we don’t know how long it would take for the economy to recover and that collecting more taxes to support the many areas that have been singled out as priorities could be a challenge.
On the K600 billion deficits Munthali said it is inevitable because the economy is in bad shape and that is expected.
“The Minister has no much choice because the breathing space is limited. What will be important is to provide for economy recovery measures that may even have to be one-on-one with individual firms to ensure that we get out of the situation faster. How we exercise fiscal discipline will also determine whether we make the deficit worse or not,” he said.
Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency, Willy Kambwandira faulted Minister of Finance for failing to adequately account on how resources in the last financial year were used.
“This is purely a luxury budget drafted to appease some sections of the society. We must be worried about the growing budget deficit to K651 billion. Government should consider cutting some non-priority issues. We cannot afford to allocate resources for construction of stadia for private entities, medical schemes for local chiefs, let alone duty free vehicles for chiefs and churches when government is surviving on domestic and foreign borrowing. This is not time to be in comfort zones,” Kambwandira said.
Chairperson of Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee Sosten Gwengwe described the budget as a piecemeal that cannot transform the country.
“This is the same old budget DPP-led government has been presenting for decades now, there is no way we should be clapping hands for duty free vehicles ,the country needs a transformative budget that could bring hope to Malawians,” Gwengwe said.
According to Gwengwe, the budget is lacking policy consistency
People’s Party spokesperson on finance who is also Member of Parliament for Zomba Changalume, John Chikalimba, said the government has allocated huge sums of money for various projects such as construction of houses for people with albinism, state-of-the-art netball complex, new Mzuzu airport, Mzuzu Youth Centre, Mombera University and private stadia for Nyasa Bullets and Be Forward wanderers.
“Despite high profile projects being allocated huge financial resources during the last financial year, the government has failed to take off the construction of the projects,” he said.