People’s Party (PP) spokesperson on finance, Ralph Jooma, has said Malawians are failing to appreciate underspending by government in the past six months, because it does not result from good performance.
According to a mid-year budget review by, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, expenditure was contained through under expenditure of K80 billion, broken down into K53 billion for development and K27 billion for recurrent.
In his response to the mid-year budget review yesterday, however, Jooma schooled Gondwe that underspending is not the same as savings.
Jooma said it is well known that underspending was a result of withholding funds due to officials’ failure to submit liquidation reports and ultimately is not the officials or implementers that are punished but a person in the village who would have benefited from the project.
“We would rather have the Minister come here and talk about savings rather than underspending. So the Minister should be saying you gave me resources to do the following; I have done and completed with less than the budget. But as it is, what the Minister is saying is that you gave me resources to do the following, but here is the money back because I have done nothing. That’s my understanding of underspending and it does not warrant rejoicing,” Jooma said.
He said, ideally, every budget must raise the livelihood of the citizens a step higher.
“Therefore, if an official has failed to account, he or she must be suspended as opposed to punishing the whole ministry or council as that is tantamount to depriving innocent citizens of development,” he said.
Jooma, who expressed pessimism about the economic recovery under President Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership, said the country’s economy is on rocks not because Malawians do not know what to do but because they are not doing it.
“Definitely, not because the opposition is not offering alternatives but because the ruling party chose not to take heed. It is mystifying sometimes to hear government craving for solutions to come from opposition. Almost acknowledging that in the country it is the opposition which has a monopoly of wisdom. Well, we will cooperate as we have cooperated before,” Jooma said.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on finance, Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi said it is shocking and distressing to note that despite his enormous experience in issues of finance and economy, Gondwe deliberately decided to present a picture of an economy that is on road to recovery.
Dzonzi said Gondwe knows the truth that the economy is actually withering and shrinking at alarming rate.
“We, therefore, find his decision to play politics with the lives of Malawians who are excruciatingly suffering of State-sponsored poverty and deprivation insulting,” Dzonzi said.
He said the good performance of individual and not corporate taxes is a sign that tax regime is becoming more punitive to Malawians whose labour is taxed more than capital.
Among other recommendations, Dzonzi argued for the development of broad goals that will really establish a general direction for government and that government should regularly collect and evaluate information about trends in conditions and problems that need to be addressed.
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