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Malawians want prudent budget

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Different commentators have expressed high expectations from the 2016/17 National Budget, which Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe is expected to present in Parliament today.

Some socio-economic commentators have said they expect a budget that is stringently allocating funds towards strategic sectors instead of unprofitable and funds-draining programmes.

The commentators have also warned the government against careless borrowing and luxurious expenditure that have kept the economy off-balance.

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The majority of those that have added their voice expect more funds towards the three crucial sectors such as commercial agriculture, health and education in the anticipated zero-aid K1 trillion budget.

“I would expect a budget that is pro-business. As a country, we need to make sacrifices. There is need for tax incentives for investors. We need to diversify the economy. The budget has to support the industrial sector,” said economist Ben Kalua.

Economic Empowerment Action Group (EEAG) president, Lewis Chiwalo, said government must draft a budget that will give no room to domestic borrowing.

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“In his State of the Nation Address, the President [Peter Mutharika] indicated that the government wants to reduce borrowing. So, we expect the budget that is not only to be zero aid but also shun the traditional too much domestic borrowing,” Chiwalo said.

He also said the precarious hunger situation that Malawi is passing through should also push the government to incentivise private investors who may be interested in the Greenbelt Initiative for more food production.

“We should be talking of strategic planning which is aimed at ensuring both micro and macroeconomic stabilities. We know that we have been spending much on worthless programmes. We need to come up with a budget that will focus on programmes that will bring money for our economy.

“We should also target those social services that the government feels are so important to the people not any other services. With the budget that is strategic and the government that is prudent, we should be able to achieve economic growth,” he said.

Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito concurred with Chiwalo that the current budget should depart from the usual consumption and focus on programmes that will bring revenue to the country.

“It is common sense that Farm Input Subsidy Programme [Fisp] is a waste. Last year, we spent a lot of money in purchasing agricultural inputs or materials but where are they? We just buried them. So, taking billions and burying them does not make sense to me. I don’t agree that Fisp has helped us and it needs to go.

“Apart from buying maize in agriculture, we have to make sure that we go full throttle into commercial agriculture. We have to identify few people who have capacity and will dedicate themselves in serious maize and other crops production that will be managed well and be able to feed the country,” Kapito said.

Social commentator Rafiq Hajat warned government against overspending, a thing he said has for long left the country in huge debts there by tilting the country’s economic to the wrong side.

“In other words, we need to spend within our means. For me, the development of human capital is very important which means the budget has to invest more in the education sector. We also have to invest more in health and alleviate poverty,” Hajat said.

Political parties have also said they expect a budget that is carefully formulated in order to break the trend of having a budget that does not deliver.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on Finance Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said his party expects what he calls a balanced budget.

“Is the Finance Minister going to present a budget that will equate revenue and expenditure? We need a balanced budget. For sure, if we are not going to be in trouble, our expenditure should be equal to the revenue,” Dzonzi said.

People’s Party (PP) spokesperson on finance, Ralph Jooma, said his party would like explanations from Gondwe on how it has used about K1.7 trillion which Parliament approved in 2014/15 and 2015/16 fiscal years.

“We don’t want to hear the minister promising economic growth. For the past two years, he has been saying the same, but nothing has been achieved. I think it will be absurd to hear that promise again.”

Independent Member of Parliament for Ntchisi North, Boniface Kadzamira, said the minister has to present a budget that can be implemented.

“Malawians need a budget that can be operationalised, not just dreams. For example, Phalombe Hospital [has been allocated funds] since 2005/2006 financial year but there is nothing on the ground. We need to have a budget that is within our means. No need of promising ten things when we know we can only afford two,” Kadzamira said.

On Monday, Speaker Richard Msowoya said after Gondwe presents the budget today, the MPs will from Monday, June 10 start scrutinising the allocation in the budget in clusters.

From Monday 13 June to Friday 24 June there will be general debate on the budget. The process, according to Msowoya, will start with responses by opposition spokespersons on finance and chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament.

Msowoya said debate on the budget will be curtailed on June 24, 2016. He said from Monday June 27 to Thursday June 30, 2016, there will be vote by vote scrutiny of budgetary allocations, popularly known as Committee of Supply.

“It is being planned that the budget will be passed on Thursday 30 June, 2016. [On] Friday, 1st July 2016- Passing of all budget-related bills,” Msowoya said.

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