Parliament yesterday unanimously passed the Digital Foundations Project Loan Authorisation Bill and Control of Goods Bills to allow government borrow from the International Development Association (IDA) and control the importation and exportation of goods respectively.
Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe made the first, second and third readings of the Digital Foundations Project Loan Authorisation Bill which seeks to borrow about K54.3 billion from IDA to finance the digital communication project.
The minister told the House that the Bill is important as it is the pillar for socio-economic development in the country and that it will help create employment.
Gondwe said: “The digital communication project is one of the initiatives that the government is undertaking to improve communication infrastructure and services in the country. It complements the national fibre backbone project and it will create job opportunities for the people.”
While welcoming the Bill, Dowa West legislator Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) expressed concern that the project is set to benefit the Executive arm of government only, an observation Gondwe trashed.
Dzonzi said: “We believe the project is important because it will improve the quality of services in the digital platform. The most beneficiary of the Bill is government but it is only the Executive arm of government that is going to enjoy it. We need to understand why the National Assembly has been left out.”
Other members from the People’s Party (PP) noted that the Bill will help advance the country’s socio-economic development as it did in Uganda and Kenya.
On the Control of Goods Bill, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa said the minister will now be empowered to engage with all interested parties before banning or restricting imports and exports of any commodity.
Previously the repealed law gave powers to the minister to ban importation of goods without engaging other stakeholders.
For example, government previously banned maize exports last year, a development that made traders face a market challenge within the country.
According to the minister, the Bill if assented to, will promote transparency and accountability as there is a provision to explain through the media why certain goods should be banned or restricted.
“The previous law gave the minister absolute mandate or powers to just wake up and ban like we have done with maize and soya beans in the past. But now with the new law we are saying let there be transparency and accountability on why we would want to buy certain imports and exports” Mussa said.