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‘Suspend some imports’

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Betchani Tchereni

An economist from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) has proposed suspension of importation of ‘luxurious commodities’ for the country to save forex.

The economist, Betchani Tchereni, said the government, through the Ministry of Industry and Trade, should consider putting restrictions on importation of some commodities, unless they are deemed essential.

This comes at a time Malawi is grappling to generate enough forex to cater for its annual imports bill, now pegged at $3 billion, against an export capacity of $1 billion.

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The situation has become more volatile lately, where the country has been unable to import commodities such as fuel and drugs.

Tchereni believes vehicles, computer games clothing lines, perfumes and cosmetics are among commodities the country can stop to import in the interim, until the situation stabilises.

He also suggested that government officials should, in the interim, forego flying first and business classes when travelling.

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“The government should come out clear and say that they will not be supporting importation of luxurious commodities because, at the rate things are going, even if we are going to devalue again, it will not solve the problem because prices will just rocket,” he said.

In a separate interview, Financial Market Dealers Association of Malawi President Leslie Fatch said the country should make sacrifices to support the technical measures that can be implemented to help reduce demand for forex.

“We need to understand that our appetite for imports affects the currency and we need to change our spending habits, especially on imported goods,” Fatch said.

Ministry of Industry and Trade spokesperson Mayeso Msokera said while the steps could be ideal in the interim, they are detrimental in the long-run.

He added that the approach they would rather take is to encourage high quality local products that should compete with imported goods.

“We are promoting the manufacturing of high quality goods that should compete on the market.

Malawi is a predominantly importing and consuming nation highly dependent on donor aid and exporting raw agricultural produce for foreign exchange mobilisation.

Since January this year, the country has been facing a scarcity of forex, resulting in struggles to import essential commodities.

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