Government’s deliberate austerity measures in the face of economic hardships is the best explanation why cabinet ministers are sometimes preferred to the Vice President Saulos Chilima when it comes to foreign assignments, a political and governance expert has noted.
Undule Mwakasungula, who once headed several human rights and governance institutions, has said this while querying the rationale of statements made by Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and political commentator Mustapha Hussein.
The two entities have told Malawi News that it is wrong for President Peter Mutharika to delegate some foreign assignments to cabinet ministers at the expense of Vice President Chilima.
According to Mwakasungula, people need to understand the concept of austerity in regards to national goals.
“Every time the Vice President travels outside the country, the logistics of his trip are not as straightforward as some might think. If we talk of austerity then it is better to send cabinet ministers for some of these foreign meetings than a member of the Presidency,” he argued.
Added Mwakasungula: “Is austerity only applying to the President? I think those saying that President Mutharika is not in good terms with vice are trying to create a mountain out of a mole hill or they have their own agenda which is to create a gulf between the two. In my personal opinion I don’t see any signs that there are sour grapes between the two.”
A snap dig-in into the Vice President’s foreign trip shows that he – just as the President- his office sends an advance team. This means he also takes a small delegation on any foreign trip.
In contrast, a cabinet minister only needs his Principal Secretary and may be one extra ministry official to manage everything at a foreign meeting.
“With an understanding that the President has some must-attend functions every year, it is only prudent not to confine all foreign trips in the Presidency. By sending cabinet ministers we are saving a lot of government resources,” said Mwakasungula.
Malawi adopted austerity policies last year as one way of managing public resources in the face of lack of budgetary support from donors.