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Mid-year budget Friday

Government saves K20 billion in AIP

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Catherine Gotani Hara

Finance Minister Felix Mlusu will this Friday go back to Malawians to explain how the K2.2 trillion 2020/21 national budget is performing when he presents the mid-year budget statement to Parliament, Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara said Monday.

The mid-year budget performance statement will come at a time the financial plan has been dogged by growing Covid expenditures and poor performance of revenues as firms continue to struggle with the second wave of the pandemic.

In her announcement at the start of the second meeting of the 49th Session of Parliament Monday, Gotani Hara said President Lazarus Chakwera was expected to come back to Parliament to answer questions from lawmakers on March 10.

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This would be the third time for Chakwera, who ascended to the country’s hot seat on June 28 last year after winning the June 23 court-sanctioned presidential election, to come to Parliament and answer questions from legislators.

When the House started meeting Monday, lawmakers adopted a hybrid setup of conducting business, which has seen very few members attending deliberations physically in the Chamber, with the rest following proceedings via Zoom.

However, it was observed during the first day of the meeting that some members who were following the meeting on Zoom had challenges contributing to deliberations as most of them forgot to unmute their microphones, prompting Gotani Hara to give more opportunity to members of Parliament (MPs) that were available in the House to contribute to deliberations.

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During Monday’s session, Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe presented a report on how the Tonse flagship programme, Affordable Input Programme (AIP), had performed.

Lowe said the government would save about K20 billion from AIP due to the sieving process, which removed some ghost beneficiaries from the list of deserving farming families.

“In my previous presentation in this august House, I indicated that the AIP would target 4,279,100 farming households. However when the list of farmers was validated by the National Registration Bureau, the number of farming households was reduced to 3,788,105.

“The drop was due to several factors including deaths, duplications and fake households, just to mention a few,” Lowe said.

According to Lowe, the cost of the subsidy programme went down from K160.2 billion to K140.2 billion following the cleaning up of the system.

Lowe told the House that government expected a bumper maize output this year following the successful rollout of the initiative.

Contributing to the report, lawmakers from both sides of the isle showered the Tonse Administration with praises for successfully running AIP, saying this would result in an improved food security situation at the household level.

Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament Sameer Suleiman appealed to President Lazarus Chakwera not to remove Lowe and his deputy Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma from their posts when reshuffling his Cabinet.

Even Gotani Hara agreed that Lowe was available to assist lawmakers during the rollout of the programme and could be reached on his phone as late as 2am.

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