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MPs get tough on government borrowing

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The Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance has warned that it will stop any loan deemed unworthy to the nation’s development to stem excessive borrowing appetite by the government.

Chairperson of the committee, Rhino Chiphiko, said Wednesday that, as of December 2017, the country had a debt profile of K2.5 trillion, out of which K1.4 trillion was obtained from development partners.

He said every loan has to go for thorough scrutiny to appreciate its value.

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“The level of borrowing is becoming unsustainable. As a committee, we are very concerned whenever somebody comes and says they want to borrow money. We have embarked on a project on how we can reduce external debt. So, whenever these money bills come before us, we will be very strict,” Chiphiko said

He made the remarks when Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) presented to the committee for support two loan authorisation bills amounting to $59 million for Karonga and Nkhata Bay projects.

The committee has demanded to conduct a monitoring exercise on the progress made so far in other projects that the board is implementing with loans

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NRWB Chief Executive Officer, Titus Mtegha, said they need to rehabilitate and upgrade water supply in the two lakeshore districts including providing facilities for managing liquid and solid wastes.

“The population is growing so fast in these areas; as such, we need adequate infrastructure to support our mandate of providing safe water. We have assured the committee that we, as an institution, analyse the loan we get and look at capacity to pay back the loan,” Mtegha said.

He added that, much as there is concern of too much borrowing in the country, the board has no choice but to acquire such loans to save people’s lives.

“There is need to build a dam in Mzuzu for instance, where there is a population of 500,000. We have a choice either to get the loan or fold our arms and get scared of getting a loan. There is cholera in Karonga because people cannot access safe water. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and let people suffer,” he said.

Chiphiko then said the committee has been lenient on the requested loans because they are for the provision of water, which is very central to people’s lives.

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