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High expectations on Parliament meet

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Malawi government, opposition political parties, economic and political commentators have said they have high expectations on the 46th Session of Parliament which starts Friday.

Opposition political parties have said they will seek answers to, among others, hurdles that are being faced in the 2015/16 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) while economists have said the current meeting should give an opportunity to government to revise the national budget downwards.

But government has just said in this Parliament session, it expects members of Parliament to tackle issue which are relevant to Malawians.

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While not revealing the approach it will take in the meeting, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Public Relations Officer, Alekeni Menyani, said the party will seek answers on a number of issues.

“On the approach, let’s cross the bridge when we get there. We are not afraid, we will not be cowed, we will go there in the manner that we have gone all the time, seeking accountability on behalf of Malawians,” Menyani said.

He continued: “The pertinent issue we want to come to Parliament is that, as we speak now, rains are already there …and yet coupons [for subsidised farm inputs] are not yet out.

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If coupons are not yet out, what about the fertiliser?”

Menyani also said the party will fight for the welfare of Malawians who are currently suffering when accessing public services.

“Almost all ambulances in this country are not on the road. In Rumphi pregnant women are going to the market to look for food because the hospitals don’t have food, in Dedza the patients are being told that they can eat once if they can afford it, and they are also going to the market, into restaurants. Some of them eat mangoes. Are these not issues which are worth our energy to fight on?” he said.

Menyani also said the MCP will push for the tabling of the Access to Information Bill.

In his remarks, People’s Party (PP) spokesperson, Ken Msonda, said his party wants government to explain the delays in Fisp.

“The only worry is that we have an arrogant administration. But we shall continue performing our oversight role. We will seek answers from government as to what is happening on Fisp. The rainy season is almost here but there is nothing happening on the ground in as far as distribution of subsidised farm inputs is concerned,” Msonda said.

Commenting on the issue, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) President Henry Kachaje said the meeting should give government an opportunity to revise the budget.

“Our expectation is that probably by now the Minister [of Finance Goodall Gondwe] must have already been working on revising the budget downwards or seeing where he can cut. We cannot continue with the same template, where we had a view that we were going to have some support but we don’t have that support.

“ It doesn’t make any economic sense to wait until January or February to review. We already know we have taken a wrong stance and we must do some corrective actions now,” Kachaje said.

He said he is expecting the meeting is not going to be “business as usual”, but expects a “to see a Parliament that is going to be “very critical, on excessive expenditure, including its own.”

Kachaje also said he expects the MPs to seek answers from government on factors that made Malawi to get off-track on International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

“The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Programme is very specific on what targets we must achieve in terms of revenue collection, expenditure levels and borrowing levels. If the programme is off-track, it means we have not followed on those guidelines.

“Our expectation is that the parliamentarians are going to take government to task, that those responsible for public spending can account for why they have allowed their country to get off-track and what corrective measures they have put in place, so that come the next review, they should be able to rate favourably,” Kachaje said.

He also said he expects a review of reports on the impact of the floods, as well as measures that are being put in place now, so that the country is not caught unawares in the event that similar disasters occur.

Meanwhile, political analyst Blessings Chinsinga has said basing on what is happening at the moment, he feels the stage is set for another meeting of Parliament that will not focus on issues affecting Malawians.

“I would say what is happening is a bad preview of what is likely to happen in Parliament. Instead of focusing on dealing with critical issues, I’m afraid most of the time will be spent on trying to outdo each other, that is, the main opposition political parties and the government side, which in the end will really benefit nobody. I think we are at a very critical point in time when Parliament meetings should really focus on how to deal with the challenges that this country has been facing for a very long time,” he said.

However, Leader of the House Francis Kasaila said he expects the House to handle issues of national importance.

“We expect the usual business of Parliament: questions to ministers, committee reports, delegations reports, motions, ministerial statements, in short, the normal status of business in Parliament.

“Our expectation is every expectation that Malawians look forward to from MPs: handling national business. I believe every Malawian expects the same,” he said.

Asked if the meeting will handle any issue to do with the budget, Kasaila said:

“This is not budget review. But if the minister feels there is something to bring to the House, he will do that. The Business Committee of the House will have to look at that, so far I haven’t seen that.”

Early this week, Kasaila said government has said it expects to table eight bills in the forthcoming meeting of Parliament.

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