Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday queried Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Simplex Chithyola Banda on government’s recovery plan in light of the recent kwacha devaluation which has worsened economic challenges.
The legislatiors, mostly from the opposition benches, also faulted President Lazarus Chakwera’s frequent travels.
Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament in Lilongwe yesterday, the minister outlined strategies that he announced at a press briefing on Monday, which included plans to curb foreign exchange trading on parallel markets as well as boosting forex reserves by exporting labour, leveraging diaspora investment and revamping the mining sector.
But leading the responses, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa observed that government loses a lot of forex to extensive external travels, particularly by the President and some members of his Cabinet.
He, thus, questioned the minister on the measures that government is undertaking to prevent forex wastage.
In response, Chithyola Banda backed the President’s frequent foreign trips, saying most of them were not financed using public funds.
“Most of the President’s trips were funded by other organisations,” he said, without providing finer details on the organisations and the level of financial support rendered to government.
Taking his turn, Machinga Likwenu MP Bright Msaka (Democratic Progressive Party) asked what measures the government is taking to incentivise the diaspora to invest in the local economy and facilitate the transfer of forex from the informal market to the authorised dealer banks.
The legislator, a former Cabinet minister who previously served as secretary to the President and Cabinet, also queried how the measures outlined by the minister would benefit Malawians in the short to medium-term.
In his response, the minister said a detailed explanation on the matter will be included in the Mid-Year Budget Review Statement he will deliver in Parliament this Friday.
In an interview on the sidelines of the briefing, leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda also defended the President’s foreign trips, saying they are necessary to attract foreign direct investment and strengthen bilateral relations with other countries.
Reacting to the foreign travels, political analyst Chimwemwe Tsitsi said it is normal for organisations to fund Presidents and their delegations when they travel outside for official engagements.
He, however, cautioned that the practice could compromise the President’s capacity to govern objectively.
Since he took office about three years ago, the President has undertaken over 40 foreign trips, including twice to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, toQueen Elizabeth II funeral in the United Kingdom, and recently to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In June, presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda said in an interview with Malawi Broadcasting Corporation that the African Export and Import Bank chartered Chakwera’s plane and paid for his accommodation when he attended the bank’s four-day annual meeting in Accra, Ghana.