Vice-President Saulos Chilima has promised to create a K40 billion fund to spur job creation if his United Transformation Movement (UTM) is ushered into power during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The K40 billion fund, announced at a UTM rally he addressed at Ntcheu Secondary School ground about 10 kilometres from his Nsipe home village, was one of the first hints Chilima has made towards realising his ambitious pledge to “create one million jobs within the first year in office”.
The ‘one million jobs’ pledge has stirred debate and skepticism with critics, including President Peter Mutharika, dismissing the target as not realistic.
But in a direct response to the critics, a fired up Chilima urged Malawians to be optimistic and not pessimistic if the country is to move forward. It was in this regard that he unveiled a K40 billion fund—to be sourced locally through pension funds and other sources—to empower small and medium-scale enterprises and create jobs.
He said: “There is evidence that it is possible that we will create one million jobs. Job creation can be done in many ways. There are informal and formal sectors of employment.
“The K40 billion fund will benefit women, youths, the elderly and people with disabilities who will be given K200 000 each as start-up. If we disburse the K200 000s to 200 000 people who will employ at least one person each, we will have 400 000 jobs.
“The public sector will recruit and the private sector will also be provided an enabling environment to grow and create jobs. If anyone comes and tells you it is impossible to create one million jobs, tell them it is possible… N’zotheka.”
Chilima, who worked in the private sector where he rose to become the first Malawian managing director for Airtel Malawi Limited before Mutharika picked him as his running mate in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, said more jobs would be created through agricultural cooperatives, establishment of meg farms and revival of the Nsanje World Inland Port initiated by former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
The Vice-President mentioned several prominent local businesspersons, including Thom Mpinganjira of FDH Financial Holdings, Mike Mlombwa of Countrwide Car Hire, Zagaf Transport and Lambat’s Variety Centre, whom he said took off from humble beginnings but cultivated their niche areas.
In the same vein, he said it is possible for the beneficiaries of the planned K40 billion scheme to grow and employ more people.
The President, whom Chilima has fallen out with, has publicly scoffed at the ‘one million jobs’ pledge, saying the Malawi economy cannot manage. Mutharika has also dismissed Chilima and UTM’s ambitious plan to introduce a high-speed train between Blantyre and Lilongwe, saying: “It’s not possible. I was in America for 40 years… I know. They tried to build such a train, but failed because it is expensive despite their huge economic muscles.”
But Chilima mentioned countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia which have developed modern high-speed railway systems as models and said Malawians should avoid the defeatist attitude.
The Vice-President also said more jobs could be created through introduction of processing factories to enable local production of tinned fish and fruit juices.
In his address punctuated by his trademark proverbs, Chilima said UTM was created not to seek power, but to seek legitimacy and political space to transform Malawi.
He said: “UTM is born out of a strong desire to see a better Malawi for everyone. In order to achieve that, the UTM-led government will aim to achieve three related objectives, namely: To position the nation in state of readiness for development, to grow the economy at sustained high rates and to deliver adequate and quality public services in an efficient, effective and professional manner.”
He said to achieve the three objectives, UTM has identified five areas for transformation, namely mindset change, leadership and good governance, public service management, economic management and public service delivery.
Earlier, former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) director of youth disputed social media reports that he had ditched UTM.
During the rally, which comparatively started with lower numbers of people compared to others UTM has addressed elsewhere, the movement’s national chairperson Noel Masangwi and secretary general Patricia Kaliati condemned the torching of UTM flags and vehicles.
Regulars at UTM rallies, including comedian-turned-politician Michael Usi of Odya Zake Alibe Mlandu Movement, UTM publicity secretary Joseph Chidanti Malunga, Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya and former first lady Callista Mutharika, were not present at the Ntcheu rally.