The 2018/2019 national budget, as unpacked by Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe in Parliament Friday, is nothing but a campaign gimmick meant to put the Democratic Progressive Party – DPP led government in good light with voters ahead of the 2019 elections.
We are bound to agree with the observations by captains of industry that the blueprint is misguided and amounts to nothing but a waste of time.
It is clear that the Peter Mutharika led administration has decided to embark on a charm offensive, by throwing around money, which, sadly, it does not readily have.
And so in the budget Goodall Gondwe has decided to reward chiefs’ blind loyalty to the DPP that we have seen over the years by doling out to them a whopping 100 percent honouria increment.
The largess has not spared civil servants who will smile all the way to the bank with a 20 percent salary increment, at least those in junior ranks.
President Peter Mutharika talked of creating 10,000 jobs for the youths through the budget the other day when he opened a technical college in Thyolo through the budget and it turns that he meant internships and planting of trees around the countryside.
Gondwe has thrown a cool K10 billion at the enterprise.
More puzzling is the K 5 billion channelled to local communities which the minister claims will be utilised by Area Development Committees. Why should this be the case when another sum of K20.7 billion has been committed towards the rural development programme?
Then you have perennial budget drainers such as Free Inputs Subsidy Programme (FISP) and Free Malata Subsidy programmes getting unbelievable raises.
While we have no serious issues against civil servants getting a salary increment and employment of teachers and doctors, we dare ask the Finance Minister to tell the nation where he will find money to plug the huge hole all these new expenditure lines will create in view of the ever dwindling resource envelope.
Crucially, it beggars belief that Gondwe has simply glossed over how he intended to resuscitate the ailing private sector, the so called engine of growth to be robust enough to create enough wealth from where he can get his tax.
Perennial problems that have dogged the private sector such as power shortages have simply been ignored with Gondwe laying out plans on interconnections with neighbouring countries that will only mature in 2022.
Simply put, the already struggling private sector is being strangled and the matter is further complicated with Gondwe making it very clear he will borrow heavily both on the domestic and international market thereby crowding out the so called engine of growth.
How such a private sector can then be robust enough to offer internships to young graduates in line with government’s programme of creating jobs for the youth is what beats the mind in this budget.
In the end, this is recklessness which has hijacked pragmatism, and sadly this means that whichever government comes to power next year will find the going tough.
With no clear outline of revenue and grants with which to fund the budget, we are asking the government again: Where will the money come from?
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