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Development projects face funding doorstop

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Macdonald Mafuta Mwale

A snap survey by The Business Times has established that some fundamental developmental projects earmarked in the 2022-23 fiscal year did not receive any funding and, hence, failed to take off.

Such projects include establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones, establishment of a mining company and construction of a judicial complex in Lilongwe, among others.

On top of the above, President Lazarus Chakwera directed the Ministry of Agriculture to establish mega farms.

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In the 2022-23 national budget, the government allocated K5 billion to the establishment of a mining company, K3.5 billion for establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones, part of K61.62 billion to Judicially for the construction of the judicial complex and needed K10 billion for the establishment of mega farms.

However, sources directly linked to these projects have indicated that even though the money was allocated, they were not funded for them to take off.

For example, Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC) is mandated to champion the establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones.

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Its chief executive officer Paul Kwengwere said in a recent interview that the project delayed not because they failed to utilise the funds but that it was not funded until it was revised to K1 billion during the mid-year budget review.

“All the three sites earmarked for the project are customary lands, hence would require compensating persons affected by the project and the compensation assessment itself did not move as fast as we expected as the process is still underway but we are at an advanced level,” Kwengwere said.

During a recent press briefing, Minister of Mining Albert Mbawala said the ministry’s request for funds for the operationalisation of the mining company was not granted.

“As Ministry, we will continue lobbying the Treasury for consideration for a budget line for the operationalisation of the State-owned mining company in the upcoming annual budget for 2023- 24 financial year,” Mbawala said.

Judiciary spokesperson Kondwani Banda said there was no funding initially until the mid-year budget review when the funds have been allocated to start off the project.

“The complex was not funded for the reason that it will be constructed using the government bond but it was in the mid-year budget review that we have been given some funds just to meet logistics,” Banda said.

An inside source at the Ministry of Agriculture has also confided in The Business Times that there was no funding for the mega farms project to take off.

The source said this forced the ministry to start looking for funds from the private sector, which is yet to materialise.

But Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe maintained that all those who were ready were given the funds and some did not utilise the funds for different reasons; therefore, the money was diverted to other projects.

When asked to provide a list of projects that were funded and not funded in the current budget, Gwengwe referred us to Secretary to the Treasury Macdonald Mafuta Mwale.

Mwale asked for more time saying he needs to consult.

“I cannot comment because I will have to check with my team if those projects were indeed not funded; therefore, check with me again tomorrow (Wednesday) or there- about,” Mwale said.

Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences-based economist Betchani Tchereni said delays to implement the projects are depressing and worrying to every well-meaning Malawian.

“We needed these projects last year. Without such development projects, this country cannot go anywhere. Therefore, we need them as soon as possible. Unfortunately, people think it is business as usual; no, this should be business unusual,” Tchereni said.

The country aspires to be an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation by 2063 through agriculture commercialisation and productivity, industrialisation and urbanisation.

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