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Budget has nothing for arts—Fama President

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WHAT’S IN THE BRIEFCASE?—Mwanamvekha before presenting the budget

Film Association of Malawi (Fama) President Ezaius Mkandawire has said there was nothing to celebrate about in the 2020/21 national budget as it has no vote for the creative industry.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha on Friday tabled a K2.023 trillion budget which offers some lukewarm tax liberations and safety nets to Malawians in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

However, Mkandawire said Fama expected something for the creative industry which has been equally affected by the pandemic.

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“During consultations, we presented our paper to the minister, who acknowledged receipt and offered us hope that there was going to be something for the creative industry in the national cake but there is nothing,” the Fama president said Monday.

In their presentation, Mkandawire and team indicated that a study conducted by the government through Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) in collaboration with National Statistics Office and United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) in 2013, concluded that the economic contribution of copyright based industries in Malawi is at about 3.46 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Despite the noticeable contribution to GDP, the creative sector remains the least developed amongst development priority areas as compared to other sectors. There is need for support as at the moment Malawi remains among the only countries without government sponsored cultural outlet,” he said.

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Mkandawire further said that the country suffers from lack of recognition and that there were no government funded festivals and spaces among others.

“We expected something better in the budget and yet there is no vote. The creative sector as I have indicated has been hit hard by Covid-19 pandemic. The government issued a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people and this has led to artists struggling. Everything stopped due to no performances,” he said.

Some of the key areas that Mkandawire said they had presented to the government included establishment of institutional structures for levies, grants and business startups for the arts and culture, operationalize use of Blantyre Cultural Centre and introduction of levies and funding for art associations in the absence of the Arts Council.

“The budget talks about building resilience however, that has not been implemented on the part of the creative sector,” he said.

Some artists also took to social media to express concern with the budget saying it has nothing for them and yet leaders have been using them to woo supporters in their political rallies ahead of the presidential election on June 23 2020.

United Forum for Music Development (UFMD) Chairperson Papa Mtume recently also expressed concern with the lack of interest by leaders for the arts and that there was nothing they have said they would do for the creative industry in their manifestoes.

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