Cherry-picking new budget

  • Gwengwe faults, Chidanti hails, scoffs at financial plan

Some opposition party spokespersons on Monday punched holes in the 2019/20 National Budget while others praised the financial plan.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson on finance Sosten Gwengwe faulted the K1.7trillion National Budget for failing to explain where government will get resources to implement its programmes.

Mwanamvekha presenting the Budget in Parliament

But UTM Party director of communications Joseph Chidanti-Malunga while scoffing at the budget for trimming funding for the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), observed that the budget is good for Malawians because domestic borrowing. Fisp has been allocated K35.5 billion to benefit 900 000 households from K40 billion in the previous has been coined to reduce

Political parties represented in Parliament are expected to give their official input to the budget when the House reconvenes on September 24 for general debate having broken into cluster committees yesterday to scrutinise the fiscal plan. Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha presented the budget on Monday.

Commenting in his capacity as MCP’s spokesperson on finance, Gwengwe faulted the budget, saying that resources in the being allocated funding in the last budget.

He cited the construction of Mombera University in Mzimba and Mzuzu Youth Centre as some projects which are replicated from previous budgets but barely took off.

Said Gwengwe: “The budget should have been analysed in terms of how bold it is and how challenging it is because Malawi is facing a lot of challenges. As members of Parliament, we expected a bold and challenging statement. We want to know where the minister would be getting resources from.”

On his part, People’s Party leader in the house John Chikalimba also faulted Mwanamvekha for allocating funds towards the construction of stadiums which, he said, belong to private entities. In the budget, Mwanamvekha has allocated K1.6 billion for the construction of two stadia, one each for Big Bullets and Wanderers Football Club in Blantyre.

He said his party will not allow government to use taxpayers’ money to fund private entities.

Said Chikalimba: “These are private companies and they are sponsored by private individuals.

The one who promised of the two stadiums is an individual construction. How could he be doing that banking on taxpayers’ money?

“PP cannot condone this. We will come out strongly and oppose this because everybody knows it is the President [Peter Mutharika] who promised and these are private-owned institutions.”

Chidanti-Malunga cautioned that government should live to the budget, reminding it that it promised to embark on a number of developments using previous budgets which have either stalled or not taken off at all.

But Mwanamveka defended funding of the stadia, saying that the football fraternity has a lot of supporters who need to benefit from national resources.

On allocating resources to projects which stalled, the minister argued that the projects referred to are long-term and as such they could not be implemented within one financial year.

He said: “There are projects that take a long time and those that take a short time. Mombera [University] is one of the projects that cannot be completed in one financial year.”

After the cluster committee meetings, the House will reconvene for responses by the opposition party spokespersons on finance, thereafter from the chairperson of the Budget Committee, to be followed by reports by chairpersons of cluster committees before the general debate.

The general debate on the budget is expected to conclude on October 7 with a speech by the Finance Minister. Immediately after the winding speech, the House will go into a Committee of Supply, which is expected to conclude on October 9.

The House will then pass the Appropriation Bill and also consider any remaining business on the Order Paper before adjournment Sine Die on Friday, October 11.

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