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Parliament meeting uncertain

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Gotani Hara

There is uncertainty on whether Parliament will meet today to continue deliberating the 2020/21 national budget as President Lazarus Chakwera had not yet appointed Cabinet ministers by the time we went to press.

After being appointed, the ministers are supposed to take oaths of office before they can start undertaking their duties.

Parliament is expected to switch sides with immediate-past opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM lawmakers, among others, going to the government side following the election of MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera as President of the country.

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Last week, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara informed Members of Parliament that they were expected to meet today to continue with the budget deliberations but Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer, Ian Mwenye, Sunday cast doubt on the possibility of the meeting.

“As of now, we do not have the Business Committee is place. The way forward on how the meeting will proceed will be known as soon as we have the committee in place,” Mwenye said.

Deliberations in Parliament are guided by the government side through a minister who is Leader of the House.

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Before Parliament went for a two-week break, Leader of the House was Kondwani Nankhumwa who is now expected to be on the opposition side as his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost the June 23 fresh presidential election.

Leader of the House, Speaker of Parliament, Leader of Opposition and representatives of political parties which have at least 10 lawmakers in the House form the Business Committee of Parliament which looks at how business would be handled in the House.

Mwenye said that as Parliament, they have been following events surrounding the fresh presidential election, especially the outcome saying: “We are very aware of the need to align the leadership and business of the House to the outcome.”

If the budget or a provisional budget is not passed by close of business tomorrow, it would mean government will have to spend illegally come July 1.

But Chakwera in his first interview with Times Television (TTV) said the government will start working on a provisional budget as a priority area once he gets into office.

“We will look at the budget and see if we can have an appropriation provisional budget to take care of the next two to three months. We will bring our own budget to Parliament so that it answers to the aspirations of Malawians,” he said.

Meanwhile, president of the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama), Lauryn Nyasulu, Sunday said having a provisional budget is the right direction to take now because it will allow the new government to have time to look at what can realistically be done in the shortest term.

Nyasulu said it would be difficult to adopt the K2 trillion-budget that was prepared by the Democratic Progressive Party-led government because it has a lot of shortfalls and needs time to be thoroughly scrutinised.

“We are getting to July 1 without a budget but we do need it. The budget that was prepared before by the outgoing government requires time to be looked at and one of the challenges in that budget is that it misses out on the aspirations that we would want to be incorporated by the new government.

“Having a provisional budget is the right direction to take now because it will allow the new government to have time to look at what can realistically be done in the shortest term. So we would want to agree with that because the government needs to have a provisional budget so that it has a legal framework to be able to spend its resources,” she said.

In its post-budget analysis of the 2020/21 budget, Ecama said it is not clear how a stable macroeconomic environment will be sustained amid the economic challenges envisaged in 2020/21 financial year.

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