Nationalising lies through budget statements

Willie Kambwandira

By Isaac Salima:

Sixty-four-year-old Maria Moses from Traditional Authority Mlolo in Nsanje District has been casting her vote since the presidential election of 1994 to elect candidates of her choice. She joins other patriotic Malawians who abandon their sleep in that chilly month of May to queue and choose leaders of choice.

However, Moses claims that she has not benefitted much from the national cake, despite the numerous promises that politicsians make while on the campaign trail.


“There is nothing much I can point at as my benefit from the duty-bearers. Look at me; I do not have a good house and, in addition, I am a peasant farmer who cannot do without subsidised fertiliser,” Moses says.

Kenneth Kandoje from the same area echoes the sentiments.

“I have not seen the fruits of voting. Do we vote so that our leaders can get rich at our expense? We have changed leaders but why is it that, in my case, I have not really benefited from developing initiatives?” Kandoje wonders.


Members of Parliament, entrusted to make laws and represent constituents in policy formulation and implementation, two weeks ago passed the national budget, pegged at K2.84 trillion, which is now in effect starting from April 01. There was joy in the august House as the parliamentarians passed the budget.

But the question is: What does the passing of the budget mean to Malawians? With other taxes, notably Value Added Tax on cooking oil, removed, Malawians expect reduced prices of the commodity.

However, as of Wednesday this week, that did not reflect in cooking oil prices and, yet, the budget is, by its very nature, a promise to deliver the goods to Malawians.

However, the opposite has been true as the budget has, in most cases, failed to meet expectations of Malawians.

Early last week, some people from Rumphi District thronged Parliament Building in Lilongwe, where they presented a petition in which they expressed dismay over the poor condition of Rumphi- Nyika-Chitipa Road.

The people claim that the project has been appearing in the budget statement for years but nothing has materialised on the ground.

“The road has been a thorn in most people’s flesh. Education for our children is affected and pregnant women have been dying on their way to the hospital. It seems our cries are not being heard and that is why we have taken this direction,” the group’s chairperson Phalles Moyo says.

True to their words, page 17 of the 55-page 2021-22 budget statement shows that construction of the 260-kilometre road was also budgeted for.

The residents of Rumphi represent voices of many frustrated Malawians who continue to get false hopes from the budget statement.

Recently, people from Blantyre, Machinga and Zomba threatened to hold vigils at Capital Hill over delays to construct the Lirangwe-Chingale- Machinga Road.

Community members are not happy that the project has been appearing in budget statements for over a decade. Ironically, the 62-kilometre road also appears on page 16 of the 2021 – 2022 budget statement, where it is indicated that it will be upgraded to a paved road.

“We are not happy that, for all these years, only four kilometres of the entire stretch have been upgraded. The road has been used as a campaign tool but, when we elect the leaders, they forget about us,” Emmanuel Chimkwita says.

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira blames the situation on politically motivated budget statements.

“While most of the budget blueprints look in good shape and appealing to Malawians, the quality of implementation of these budgets remains a big challenge. The budgets are often riddled with corruption and abuse.

The budgets are just a way of paying lip service to Malawians in the sense that they are just empty documents. Implementation of our budgets is often riddled with corruption and, yet, there are no corrective measures taken against those involved in corrupt deals,” Kambwandira says.

Governance expert Makhumbo Munthali says delays to release allocated funds for planned development activities affects their implementation.

“Most of the government departments and agencies complain of delayed funding, which eventually cripples public service delivery. So, the budget creates public excitement but, on the ground, there is little to celebrate about,” Munthali said.

Malawians might not have forgotten that, one Friday afternoon last month, lawmakers united in celebrating Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe’s announcement that the Constituency Development Fund allocation had been hiked to K100 million from K40,000.

However, it remains to be seen whether this will have a positive impact on the common person in the village.

Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Public Infrastructure Uchizi Mkandawire, however, says the passing of the budget does not mean automatic implementation of planned activities.

“When we pass the budget, it does not mean that the funds are available for the projects. What it means is that, sometimes, the government fails to get necessary funds for implementation of the projects.

“However, we cannot fail to plan because we do not have funds,” Mkandawire says.

Nevertheless, Gwengwe believes that the 2022-23 budget will transform people’s lives, citing the health sector.

“In the health sector, progress has been made. Phalombe District Hospital has been constructed and the placement of human resources is underway.

“Additionally, construction of superstructures at Mponela Community Hospital has started while construction of Domasi Community Hospital is continuing,” he says.

Ironically, while, year-on-year, Malawians complain about unfinished projects in education, health, sanitation, road infrastructure – you name them—it is surprising that funds for other programmes such as affordable Inputs and Constituency Development Fund are always available in the same budget.

Needless to say the attainment of long-term development goals such as the Malawi 2063 hinge on implementation of small projects outlined in budget statements.

As such, failure to implement projects outlined in budget statements may, surely, result in failure to achieve long term goals, something elected leaders must guard against.

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