Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning, Bright Msaka, has defended the K7 billion budget allocation to the subsidized cement and iron sheets programme by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), saying over 15,000 low income families would benefit from the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Program (DHASP) which is scheduled to start as a pilot this year.
Msaka said in a ministerial statement in parliament on Monday that the program will see government subsidising cement and iron sheets to low income Malawians such as those who live in thatched houses and mud floors as well as people with disabilities and orphans.
The Minister said the K7 billion will “translate in 80 low cost houses per constituency and 15,440 beneficiaries across the country in this pilot year.” Malawi has 193 constituencies.
He said the program at local level would be implemented through a special vehicle known as Housing Development Group (HDG) which would be established at each area of the Group village headman.
“To ensure that the HDG’s are insulated from political parties and other forms of manipulation, their formation will be facilitated by Community Development Assistants,” he said.
The Minister added that the program in consultation with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare will also identify and provide a house, kitchen, toilet and bathing room to 965 to the elderly and feeble, female or child headed households and people with severe disabilities.
During debate on the subject last week, leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera said that government should have instead provided private sector incentives for production of cement and iron sheets.
In the house, the matter has received criticism including Mangochi-Monkebay parliamentarian Ralph Jooma of PP who argued that said government should consider subsidizing other national services such as health, education and water.
Lilongwe East MP Ezekiel Ching’oma said the impact of the subsidy would be negligible considering that only 100 people would be targeted in each of the 193 constituencies.
He said when DPP was campaigning; they never said the subsidy would be targeted, but changed tune after winning the vote.
Said Ching’oma: “It means that for each constituency, there will be 500 beneficiaries by the end of the five years. It has to be noted that 80 percent of Malawians live in poor housing, in this way the impact of this programme, after five years, will surely be close to negligible.”
Rumphi West MP Jacqueline Kouwenhoven said the new subsidy would just create a new dependency on the part of Malawians.
She said: “When we start building houses for people, next they will look to government for other areas. That K7 billion could have gone into health care or education and people would be better helped through this.”
Dowa East MP Richard Banda said the new subsidy “should have been pended until our economy was manageable.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :