Cabinet divided on fuel price hike

Cracks have emerged in President Bingu wa Mutharika’s cabinet over recent fuel price hike which threatens to weaken the governing DPP, Nyasa Times can exclusively reveal.

Government on Tuesday hiked the price of petrol from K290 per litre to K380, diesel jumped by 38 percent at K360 per litre, citing escalating cost of importing and distributing the sensitive commodity.

The increase has unleashed political tension within Muthariaka’s ruling elite with some viewing the hike as a tactical stir to kill the presidential aspirations of heir apparent– Professor Peter Mutharika.

Kaliati: No rift

“A meeting of senior cabinet ministers  was frozen when it was announced [fuel price increase] and some members pointed out the increase was ill timed considering the current political and social climate,” said a source who attended the meeting.

“It is clear the increase will bring suffering to ordinary people but we were made to understand this is part of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release some funds,” added the aggrieved politician.

Nyasa Times could not verify with the IMF if this was part of the clause, but research shows the Breton woods Institution pressurised government to widen its tax base through fuel levies and devalue its currency among other things.

Government spokesperson, Patricia Kaliati, who was not part of the meeting, told Nyasa Times that disagreements were a sign of democracy within cabinet and played down any rifts.

“People should not take any political mileage out of this. The increase was made in line with global economic trends,” Kaliati said.

The private sector is also at odds. The Confederation of Malawi Chambers of Commerce and Industry(MCCI), a body that protects the interests of medium and large scale businesses, ironically, hailed the fuel price increase as long overdue, while Road Transporters Association of Malawi has fated the trek.

Meanwhile, there were reports in Blantyre and Lilongwe of continued fuel shortages that has been a running theme for the past six months creating mayhem to ordinary people and the business community.

Some private citizens have since obtained an injunction restraining Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) from effecting the unpalatable new rates.

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