Same old budget story and nothing changes

Judge Mbadwa: Mr Jonah Kapita of the Association of Disgruntled Consumers has, in view of the forthcoming Budget Session of Parliament, asked this court to ensure that no statement about the 2019/20 budget being pro-poor and aimed at spurring growth is added to it. Can Mr Kapita state why this should be the case?

Kapita: My Lord, every financial year the minister of finance presents before Parliament the promise of how the taxpayers’ money should be used or abused for the next 12 months.

My lord, before the budget is actually presented, the minister and his team embark on pre-budget consultations to solicit views on what could be added or removed in the next budget and this is where the problem starts my lord.

As a grouping that represents the majority poor, we noted that the pre-budget consultations involve groups that represent interests of the elite who hardly understand the country we are living in.

These, plus the proponents of the false economic principles the country is following, have been shaping the economic destiny of Nyasaland, yet we have been getting poorer and poorer.

We believe it is an insult to the poor to hear the establishment that increases service charge fees almost every financial year claiming that the budget is tailored to serve the poor.

My lord, we are not going to allow the minister abuse the poor when we know government’s intention to milk the already thin cow through an increase in service charges at Road Traffic, Immigration and all other government institutions.

We know that the hospitals are still going to experience drug stock outs while the education system and the entire service delivery system will still be run down.

The fact that government will increase allocation to Subsidy Programme should not give licence to them to label their budget pro-poor because we know who actually benefits from such an enterprise—it is the supplier and the transporter who win tenders as the farmers themselves year-in and year-out wait to be bailed out of hunger by handouts from organisations such as World Food Programme and other relief agencies.

My lord, we know that the taxes will remain punitive as companies will still be struggling to feed the Nyasaland Revenue Authority at the expense of growth. My lord, the arrears government owes individuals and companies will not be cleared this new financial year and it will be business as usual with the budget deficit widening as expected.

Since we are not going to become the next Singapore or Rwanda in the foreseeable future, we ask the minister of finance to save us the trouble of believing the lie called budget when we know we have always been off-track in terms of implementation.

My lord, our budgets have been rich in promise but poor in implementation with an implementation rate that through guess work I can put at a mere 20 percent. This is the reason I am asking this court to stop the minister from raising hopes where there is none. Thank you my lord.

Mbadwa: In the budget cycle, the planning and formulation of budget might be important but equally important is the execution and control of the budget. This is an area where Mr Kapita has expressed his frustration. In short, the successful public finance management in Malawi hinges on the political will, which is almost non-existent; hence, the promises made in the budget are rarely fulfilled. The budget are just promises and nobody is ready to implement them to the letter.

This court, therefore, orders the minister of finance to remove the statements that insinuate that his 2019/20 promise will spur growth and help reduce poverty because that is not going to happen. Failure to adhere to this order will result in commencement of proceedings to commit the minister to prison for contempt of court. Thank you. n

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