For over a decade, budget consultations have become a fixed event on the national calendar.
Among other things, budget consultations offer Malawians the opportunity to contribute to national discourse, thereby promoting the spirit of ownership. After all, part of the money allocated to national development initiatives is derived from taxes, our taxes; meaning that we have a stake in national development programmes.
And, maybe because of the importance of such consultations— which are held in the country’s administrative regions— the Finance minister has often been part of the deliberations, attending the events in person to take note of issues being raised, respond to pertinent questions and offer insights into how the budget works.
In fact, Finance ministers have often taken advantage of the events to score a point or two— which is understandable because ours is a two-tier system: We have the government proper, of civil servants, a set-up that is permanent and apolitical; and a political administration that steers national affairs after being entrusted by citizens through the ballot.
In most cases, the political administration factors some of the things highlighted in the ruling party’s manifesto into the national budget. Therefore, budget consultations have political connotations, since they offer ruling parties a chance to convince stakeholders that points raised in their manifestos are the sure way to the promised land of economic prosperity.
But it seems that Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe does not realise the importance of budget consultations. While, in the past, he was part and parcel of the same, he has suddenly developed cold feet, leaving Malawians wondering as to whether budget consultations matter at all.
Not that we are belittling Secretary to the Treasury, Ben Botolo, who has taken it upon himself to be part of the consultations. Just that, if the truth be told, he was not among those who came up with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Manifesto that propelled President Peter Mutharika to power.
As such, if Gondwe continues to be absent from such important deliberations, who will promote the agenda espoused in the DPP Manifesto?
Well, we think that the excuse that Gondwe has given us— that he was busy attending to other exigencies of duty— does not hold water. Maybe fatigue has caught up with him and, not wanting to tell the truth, he wants to feed us lies.
Let us tell Gondwe this: There is nothing more important than the budget and budget consultations, especially when you are Finance minister, Sir. It is either you attend the meetings or leave your position to those who may value such meetings. There are no two ways about it.
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