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Lazarus Chakwera cancels Austria, Rwanda trips

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Gospel Kazako

President Lazarus Chakwera has cancelled his trips to Vienna, Austria, and Rwanda, where he was supposed to participate in Opec Fund Development Forum and Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

The meetings are scheduled for this month.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nancy Tembo told journalists in Lilongwe Monday that the President will attend the Opec Fund Development Forum virtually and has delegated Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola and Minister of Water and Sanitation Abida Mia to physically attend the meeting.

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Tembo will represent the President at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

“Both trips are important to Malawi. Opec Development Fund and Commonwealth have been very important to Malawi’s development. Attendance in such meetings is very important for Malawi,” the minister said.

Four Cabinet ministers, namely Tembo, Mia, Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako and his Finance counterpart addressed the press Monday in government’s routine ‘face-the-press’ session.

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Gwengwe said government has saved K268 million from the President’s cancelled trips. We could not independently verify the figures.

“The President wants to be in the forefront in protecting public resources because of the public debt and devaluation. We need to be very strict when executing our budget.

“After devaluation, we needed to review our figures so that, going forward, the budget should not be misaligned,” he said.

Gwengwe and Kazako also clarified that there is no absolute travel ban but that what were announced were travel restrictions such that only extremely important and unavoidable trips would be given the nod.

“The cancellation of the trips does not mean that the President will not be travelling where necessary,” said Kazako.

While welcoming the cancellation of the trips, governance commentator Willy Kambwandira said there is a need for government to come up with a comprehensive explanation of how much the austerity measures will save.

“This is an opportunity for the President to set the tone and demonstrate genuineness and commitment to the austerity measures. There are more cost-cutting measures, including trimming presidential convoys and Cabinet fleets,” Kambwandira said.

Chakwera announced external travel restrictions and other austerity measures for the rest of the financial year, with Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba imposing more restrictions a few days later.

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