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Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu’s 2021- 22 national budget to be implemented between next month and March next year—due to changes in future fiscal plans—has been rightly described by various commentators as a people’s budget.

While budgets, in their entirety, are complicated expenditure plans, there still are areas which clearly spell out government’s proposed usage of resources that come its way.

Taxpayers are often interested to see the tax measures that have been put in place to meet their expectations.

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We all know that these are what contribute a huge chunk to the national budget and the government looks at such a sector with extra caution so that it does not shoot itself in the foot.

But the K1.99 trillion 2021-22 budget seems to be a peculiar departure in terms of what the government gets from its people when compared with previous financial blueprints.

Some observers have concluded that the budget has seriously taken into consideration promises which the Tonse-led government made ahead of the court-sanctioned presidential election and measures for recovering from the devastating effects of the Covid pandemic.

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The duty-free week, which was one of the key promises of this government, has been introduced. It gives Malawians an opportunity to import merchandise and get them into the country without paying duty during a designated week.

The week also attracts more taxpayers into the system as they will have to be recorded and given a taxpayer identification number. The government will, in turn, increase the tax base.

Apparently, concerns that some tax measures are unrealistic as they will reduce government’s ability to collect more revenue are unfounded.

Experts are arguing that the incentives will, in essence, also increase tax compliance. In any case, if there is a way of easing the tax burden on the people, the government has an obligation to pursue it.

Reduction of taxes on some products will definitely ramp up interest to employ more people as firms will be cutting down on expenditure. This, if properly handled, will work in the favour of the government.

It is obvious that arriving at the tax measures and other decisions reflected in the budget was not easy. Yet, it may also reflect the desire to listen to views of stakeholders who presented their opinions during the consultation meetings ahead of drafting the financial blueprint.

When the government announced that it would raise the tax-free band for Pay as You Earn (Paye) from K45,000 to K100,000 in the budget that is currently being implemented, there were naysayers who argued such a decision would turn around to haunt Mlusu who would not have enough in Treasury coffers.

The argument from the minister was that, in fact, the decision would increase disposable income for Malawians, meaning more money would go back to Treasury. So far, that notion has not been disproved.

Regarding the 2021- 22 budget, what is also impressive is that it has been aligned with Malawi’s Agenda 2063. This means as a nation, we are serious about this development vision and are willing to link our growth with the dream.

Of course, what is crucial is the actual implementation of the lined-up projects which are commensurate with pillars in the agenda.

Malawians want a government that respects the work of institutions established to push the country forward in terms of development.

In fact, there were fears that the government, in the pursuit of scoring political points, would ignore the agenda and implement projects which it feels will make it popular even if they may not be in the best interest of citizens.

In general, the 2021- 22 budget shows that the government is determined to see more Malawians living decent lives within the means of what can be found in the country.

While some areas might have been excluded, it is important to appreciate that not everything can be done overnight. At least, there is something realistic, a departure from wild promises which the government would make, knowing very well that the dreams would never be realised even in our lifetime.

In the budget, there is also a deliberate intention of taking money from those who earn very high perks to be distributed to the poor.

All in all, the budget which will be implemented for nine months, beginning next month, seems to be a budget that has put the interests of Malawians at its core.

And, the Agriculture Inputs Programme is still there.

There obviously are areas which need to be further improved but, at least, we have seen an important starting point. Let it be sustained for the progress of everyone.

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