Minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha has disclosed that the 2020/21 national budget is ready for presentation and that he is just being held by Parliament which is still consulting on whether members can meet amid the Covid-19 outbreak. To contain the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Health, among other things, announced the limiting of the number of people gathering in one place to not more than 100.
Malawi’s Parliament has 193 members and the number of those in the chamber rises and falls when the support staff are brought into the picture.
In an interview with The Daily Times, Mwanamvekha said if the Speaker of Parliament agrees with President Peter Mutharika to have the meeting as soon as possible, he is ready to present the budget. Parliament was initially set to start meeting from May 8 but the meeting was postponed to a later date due to the coronavirus.
Mwanamvekha said in the event that the passing of the budget delays, the Constitution allows him to have a provisional blue print to carter for the next four months. Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer, Ian Mwenye, said plans to have a date for the meeting are being considered.
“The procedure of the National Assembly to meet is that there are consultations between the Speaker of Parliament and the President. Currently, these consultations are going on as to when the next meeting should be held,” he said. Mwenye further indicated that in view of the pandemic, Parliament has put additional preventive measures that carter for a number of situations including meetings.
Governance commentator, Makhumbo Munthali, said Parliament needs to meet as a matter of urgency because there are a number of issues that require it to address.
“There are issues around Covid-19 measures, like the lockdown that need Parliament input. There is also the issue of bills that the President did not assent to which require Parliament to reconvene and look into,” Munthali said.
In the 2019/20 financial year, Parliament approved K1.7 trillion before it was revised to K1.8 trillion to be used by June 30, when the current government financial year ends.