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No fiscal policy shift— Sosten Gwengwe

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John Kapito

Malawi’s newly appointed chancellor of the exchequer Sosten Gwengwe has said the country should not expect any changes in fiscal policy.

Gwengwe said this in an interview Monday after he was sworn in as new Finance Minister on Sunday, a mantle he has taken from Felix Mlusu, who headed the Treasury in the first two years of the Tonse Alliance-led administration.

He said Malawi had enough policies and plans that could turn around the economy but would only require vigour in the implementation drive.

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He believes a turnaround of the economy has been hampered by lack of policy implementation and delayed, impassionate and relaxed approaches among stakeholders.

“We have kept on talking and changing and reviewing the policies but the existing documents are enough to change our fortunes if we implement them. So, I want to use these economic policies and concentrate on action,” Gwengwe said.

He said the Treasury would put intense efforts on debt management to loosen the fiscal space.

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This comes amid the government’s insatiable appetite for borrowing, a situation which saw public debt stock rising to K5.5 trillion as of mid-2021, representing 59 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Of the debt stock reported, $3.6 billion (about K2.9 trillion), or 31 percent of GDP, was external debt and K2.6 trillion, or 28 percent of GDP, was domestic debt.

Reacting, Economics Association of Malawi Executive Director Frank Chikuta said Malawi has some of the best policies that can turn around the economy but implementation has not been in line with planning.

But Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) Executive Director John Kapito said sticking to old policies was disastrous as they have already failed to yield desired fruits.

“The challenges that Malawi is facing now are totally different from whatever the case about a year ago; therefore, it would require any new incumbent to start developing new strategies and policies,” he said.

Professor of Economics at the University of Malawi Ben Kalua said addressing bottlenecks facing the economy required concerted efforts.

When unveiling the two-year Socio-Economic Recovery Plan late last year, President Lazarus Chakwera admitted that the economy was bleeding.

The plan is aimed at stimulating strategic parts of the economy to ensure that Malawi stays the course as regards the Malawi 2063 first 10-year implementation plan.

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