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United Kingdom rebuffs Peter Mutharika’s aid plea

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President Peter Mutharika’s continued appeal for the resumption of direct budgetary support from the United Kingdom (UK) met another wave of resistance yesterday when the visiting Department for International Development (DfID) Parliamentary under Secretary of State, James Wharton, said there are no plans to do so.

Over the years, the United Kingdom has been a leading development partner for Malawi and its assistance has been in the form of budgetary support, sectoral support, and project support.

But the UK withdrew its budgetary support during the reign of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, who was accused of showing dictatorial tendencies.

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When Wharton visited President Peter Mutharika at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, President Mutharika pleaded for the resumption of direct budgetary support.

Mutharika said the budgetary support, which has been non-discretional, has been critical to Malawi for many years in supporting the Balance of Payments (BoPs), as well as financing critical expenditures of the budget, especially social expenditures.

He said the loss in budgetary support has caused a lot of social economic challenges to the people but the government has worked tirelessly to ensure that the country gets back on track with International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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“We have also worked hard to improve our Public Financial Management Systems, such as undertaking regular bank reconciliation of government accounts, fiscal reporting and pre-audit inspections. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) have also succeeded in securing 100 percent convictions on all Cashgate cases brought before the courts so far and we continue to pursue every case to its logical conclusion,” Mutharika said.

Mutharika also said the government will also remain committed to strengthening the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) so that public resources are solely used for the benefit of all people.

He said the system is now transparent and there is also enhanced accountability and the ongoing implementation of public services reforms is also bearing the desired results in improving service delivery and he strongly believes that the country will not have a repeat of the Cashgate scandal.

“With all these developments, Honourable Minister, I wish to appeal to your Government to seriously consider resuming budget support to Malawi. We have no doubt that this will play a critical role in helping us realise the 2030 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Malawi, particularly on “Healthy lives for All,” “Quality Education” and “Combating Climate Change.”

But in an interview after the meeting, Wharton said while the United Kingdom remains committed to supporting Malawi in its development agenda, there are no plans to resume budgetary support.

“We continue to closely work with the government of Malawi. We share ambitions for growth and of course for security but at this time we don’t have plans to resume direct budgetary support. We will of course continue to have very open and close relations with the government and His Excellency the President. I understand entirely that issues will be raised but at this time I cannot commit to making that significant change in our policy but I can say with absolute certainty that we remain committed to supporting Malawi and its development and its people,” Wharton said.

During the meeting, the two governments also discussed issues of humanitarian support and the prospects of trade agreements between the two countries.

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