There are wide expectations from the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting of Parliament which starts today in Lilongwe with economic and governance commentators calling on legislators to prioritise fixing multiple crises facing the country.
In random interviews, the experts and commentators said Parliament should prioritise solving the shortage of fuel, foreign exchange scarcity, electricity blackouts, looming hunger and the general increase in the cost of living.
The meeting also comes at a time there are reports of abuse of public resources in relation to the implementation of this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), closure of State produce trader Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and theft of maize at the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA).
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa yesterday said he expects Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Sosten Gwengwe to provide a government expenditure report amid reports of rampant abuse of public resources and corruption.
He said: “We also expect the Minister of Finance to tell us short, medium and long-term strategies to resuscitate the country’s economy which is clearly on its deathbed as evidenced by continued skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, electricity and fuel crisis”.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira said he expects adjustments to the national budget to reflect the realities on the ground.
He also said government should to spell out a clear plan on how it intends to resolve the various crises facing the nation.
Kambwandira said: “I expect the government to spell out clear strategies on how they will deal with the prevailing crisis of fuel, AIP corruption and continued plunder of public resources.
“ I also expect parliamentarians to put aside their political interests and discuss matters that affect Malawians.”
Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda confirmed yesterday that issues to do with the shortage of fuel, electricity blackouts and shortage of food will form part of the agenda.
“The agenda will also include electoral-related Bills, among other Bills.” he said.
According to Chimwendo Banda, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs is expected to present a Mid-Year Budget Statement on Friday next week.
In a written response, Gwengwe indicated that solving inflation tops his priorities.
“A primary concern for this budget is taming inflation,” he said.
But economist Betchani Tchereni from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Science said taming inflation alone will not be enough.
He said his expectation is to see adjustments and reallocation of resources to productive areas, which can spur economic growth.
Tchereni said: “The Mid-Term Budget will need to affirm austerity. Government expenditure has been burgeoning to unsustainable levels financed by unsustainable debt both domestically and foreign.
“It is imperative that measures to deal with this borrowing will be made public and they should be actionable. It is our expectation that the budget will further relook at mining companies and mega farms. We need to have them operational as soon as possible.”
The national budget is almost off the rails as a 25 percent devaluation in May this year knocked down key economic indicators, including inflation rate and the exchange rate. Subsequently, commodity prices went up, further shrinking the budget’s purchasing power to finance projects as well as goods and services.