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We have enough Members of Parliament

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The Malawi Parliament, which has 193 legislators, could have 28 more Members of Parliament (MPs) if a Malawi Law Commission recommendation that each district should have an automatic woman MP is adopted.

The decision could bring the total number of our MPs to 221. The question that rushes to my mind is: 221 MPs for what?

Currently, one can count on the fingers of one hand the number of MPs that talk sense in Parliament. Others do not speak at all. They are like the Isaac Newtons of our time. For all his fame as a scientist, Newton proved entirely useless as a politician.

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Newton was elected as an MP in 1689 and served for exactly one year. The one thing he did during that time was to ask a nearby usher to close Parliament’s window!

Here in Malawi, it is said that some MPs are intimidated by the need to address Parliament only in English and that, if the albatross of English could be removed from their necks, most MPs could find their voice.

As of now, their contribution is limited to cheering and jeering.

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With all such deadwood, do we seriously want to bloat the parliamentary wage bill by introducing 28 more faces to be booing and jeering?

Speech impediments aside, percapita, Malawi is outdoing even developed countries in increasing the number of MPs. Take the United Kingdom, for instance. It has a population of 60 million but has 650 MPs. That is to say, roughly, 92,000 constituents per MP.

On the other hand, Malawi has 17 million people. With 193 MPs, the per capita is 88,000 per MP.

If the number does indeed rise to 221, the per capita will drop to 77,000 per MP. Currently, our MPs’ wage bill comes close to K4 billion per year, and yet we have nothing to show for it in terms of development.

The government still borrows money from Indian and Chinese banks, which our MPs know only to approve. They do not show interest at all in pushing the government to account for those loans once the implementation period has passed.

I laughed the other day when Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe presented the budget in Parliament. He said part of the Ministry of Health’s development budget would go towards the construction of Phalombe District Hospital.

It is funny because since 2007, money has been borrowed from India and set aside for this very same Phalombe Hospital and, yet, 10 years down the line, amounts keep materialising in our annual budgets for construction of this same hospital.

Government fat cats get away with stealing because our Parliament is sleepy, with a few exceptions. joseph Chidanti-Malunga’s committee, for example, needs to be recognised for its vigilance, both in the Kaloswe Maize Scandal and in ensuring that the Lilongwe Water Board does not cut corners in the Lake Malawi project.

The same cannot be said of other committees which, perhaps, are stuffed with people we hear jeering and booing instead of contributing meaningfully to national discourse.

The state of Micronesia has the world’s smallest number of MPs. It has 14 MPs and their business of government works just fine.

I am of the opinion that 100 MPs would be more than enough for Malawi. I followed debate on some Facebook wall this week, where a sizeable number of contributors proposed even more radical changes, such as having one MP per district. I can guarantee that, with one MP per district, Parliament would work just fine.

As of now, the whole show has been reduced to a poverty-reduction programme. People sit there, say nothing, and get paid gazillions of money for it. It is time to think of change!

I rest my case.

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