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Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Malawi needs more than figures, numbers

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Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe yesterday presented to Parliament the 2017/18 National Budget, begging Malawians through their representatives to allow him to spend this year about K 1.3 trillion, largely from their hard earned tax.

Reading through the 50 page budget statement, we easily conclude that the National Budget presented has traceable prints of the current one.

Thanks to the mercy of the World Bank, there appears to be some budgetary support this year after years of continued drought – which however, the finance minister says would largely be used in settling domestic debts.

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A number of positive endeavors are recorded in the budget statement and indeed worth noting: an increase in the free tax threshold, a new tax bracket and exemption of VAT on other basic commodities such as milk.

That said, and worth noting after going through the figures and numbers, you can still tell that Gondwe is overambitious and too optimistic.

To say that the economy would be growing by seven percent in real GDP terms per annum is but one of those obvious rhetoric. Why? Gondwe did not gather the mantel to efficiently and effectively tell Malawians the how part.

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Then there is the Introduction of 10 percent Excise Tax on TV subscription fees which is a continuation of the Gondwe’s obsession with overtaxing the media after the introduction of VAT on newsprint and the finished product last year. This time Gondwe is extending the whip to pay television.

When all is said and concluded this budget is a true reflection of the system that for some time has been governing on promises and still goes away with it when tables turn.

It is an open secret these figures and numbers would be of little or no relevance to the majority of our people unless there is a human face attached to them.

It is a fact that only a small connected few of the population is spared from the hardships currently characterising the Malawi economy. The rest are victims.

Entrusted with a daunting task to champion economic growth strides in an environment not entirely conducive for doing business, and also a role to manage the ever slim public purse; Goodall is the man to face the bullets.

It was and still is the wish of every Malawian to see Gondwe championing strides towards eradicating poverty rather than sugar coating the National Budget with optimistic figures which are subject to change mid-way through the budget implementation period.

Gondwe’s task, therefore, yesterday should have been to unveil a National Budget that would spur economic growth by creating incentives for businesses and not one that is only being overoptimistic.

It is our hope that our MPs would in the coming weeks soberly and radically scrutinize the expenditure plan prior to its implementation from 1st July.

This should be surely done in the interest of a majority Malawians, most of whom are still in dire poverty and in impoverished socio-economic conditions.

To them numbers and figures that Gondwe was rattling the whole afternoon yesterday mean nothing.

All they want is a better life for themselves and their families.

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