“Chakwera adminstration shares the pain with Malawians” – Kazako

The Chakwera-led government shares the pain with the Malawian people on the skyrocketing cost of living with the incessant price hikes on essential goods and service, Information minister and Government spokesperson, Gospel Kazako has said.

Speaking in an interview with Nyasa Times in response to a question on the decision by the country’s water boards’ move to raise water tariffs by an average of 52 percent from November 1st, Kazako said president Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration shares the painful and difficult times and spaces the citizens are passing through.

Said Kazako: “We are aware the cost of living has gone up but this id part of the process of laying a solid foundation for our economy. We need an economy that is genuine, solid and sustainable.

President Dr Lazarus Chakwera speaks to Members of Press on his visit to Kenya, UAE and Scotland at Kamuzu Palace-pic by Lisa Kadango

“We are passing through this phase as an investment for the future, a secure future for all Malawians. If we are to be inclusive in our pursuit to achieving prosperity together and share our dreams for a better Malawi, we all have to share the pain of the process.”

Kazako said the new administration took over a ‘patient’ government that was on a sickbed in an intensive care unit and in order to recover there is need for a surgery and that process is painful.

“So, we are hearing the cries, we are listening. We are doing all we can to recalibrate the economic metrics of our nation. As a listening and caring government, we have never denied of the pain Malawians are experiencing.

“Soon, very soon, It will be over. The journey to sustainable national prosperity is on. Let’s all stand strong, together. The future is brighter,” said Kazako.

Kazako said the Chakwera administration strives to tell the citizens the truth no matter how painful it is to take adding that the previous administration used to put make up on the truth so the people couldn’t see its ugliness and therefore sugar coating it to sound better.

The price of piped water, to the chagrin of the many, has gone high at the time citizens are struggling to cope with the exorbitant cost of living.

The water tariffs hike comes barely weeks after Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) increased pump prices for petrol and diesel by an average 22.8 percent last month.

A few weeks ago fuel pump prices jumped up to the roof and this forced the prices of many essential goods and services to go up leaving the average Malawian struggling to survive.

Effectively, petrol went up by 27.89 percent to K1 150 from K899.20 per litre, diesel rose by 24.72 percent from K898 to K1 220 per litre and paraffin by 15.79 percent to K833.20 from K719.60 per litre.

Mera is also expected to review a possible 10 percent electricity tariff increase for the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi.

Meanwhile, retail prices for maize, which contributes 42.5 percent to the inflation basket, has hit K200 per kilogramme (kg) in October, according to the Institute for Food Policy Research International (Ifpri) September 2021 Malawi Monthly Maize Market Report.

This week, new tariff structures we have seen show that Blantyre Water Board (BWB) consumers will pay 40 percent more while customers of Southern Region Water Board (SRWB) face a 50 percent hike and those of Central Region Water Board (CRWB) face a whopping 65 percent raise.

Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) and Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) were yet to present details of their revised rates as we went to press.

The country’s water boards last adjusted upwards the tariffs in 2018.

Following the increase, BWB customers getting their supplies from kiosks will be paying K0.40 from K0.23 while domestic users will part with K1.06 from K0.64 per litre for consumption of between zero and 40 000 litres.

In an accompanying Government Notice Number 58: Water Works Act (CAP 72:01), BWB said the water tariffs have been adjusted upwards to help the board meet the increasing production and operational costs to continue serving customers better.

SRWB said the water tariffs hike was necessary to cover high costs of materials needed in water production.

SRWB chairperson Ibrahim Matola said at a consultation meeting with various stakeholders, including the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), civil society organisations and water users in Zomba that since the last revision of the tariffs in 2018, water production equipment both from local and international suppliers have gone up.

“This has prompted the board to revise its tariffs to continue producing potable water in its catchment areas as the board is unable to meet consumers’ demands due to limited resources,” Matola said.

However, treasury figures show that BWB’s financial performance has been worsening largely due to the non-implementation of the cost-reflective tariffs in the last three years, high non-revenue water (NRW) levels due to dilapidated pipeline systems and very high electricity costs.

Kazako said most of the water boards in the country are not in good financial health after the previous administration used them as cash cows for the deposed erstwhile ruling party.

During the 2020/21 financial year, BWB projected a K10.2 billion loss by the end of the 2020/21 financial year.

As at December 31 2020, SRWB’s financial position worsened with a loss of K391. 5 million due to reduced volumes of water following the drying up of sources in Mwanza, Chiradzulu and Balaka.

The situation was exacerbated by frequent pump breakdowns in Liwonde, non-availability of materials for new connections, and proliferation of boreholes.

On the other hand, CRWB’s financial performance also worsened such that as at December 31 2020, they recorded a net loss of K502.6 million due to challenges of high NRW projected at 31 percent, the presence of a high number of stuck and aged meters which were under-registering sales volumes.

The financial performance of NRWB also deteriorated as at June 2020 with a loss of K3.8 billion down from a profit of K323.9 million in the 2018/19 financial year, largely hampered by the economic slowdown as a result of Covid-19 which was characterised by low volumes which declined by 11 percent below the breakeven position of the previous year.

Treasury also expects LWB to register an 82 percent reduction in profitability over 2019/20 financial year to K0.4 billion to increase in losses due to a high NRW level at 41.4 percent in December 2020 compared to the target of 35 percent and the impact of unrevised water tariffs against increased production costs, coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic impacts particularly on water sales volume, due to reduced water consumption.

Kazako said the government fully understands how painful this is to the people but they would like to assure the citizens and everyone else that the road to recovery is getting smoother by the day and all the economic difficulties the country is currently undergoing through will soon be over.

“We are in this pain together and as a government we truly share the pain but we promise that things will soon be better, we ask for a little more time to fix things and soon, happy days will be here,” said Kazako.

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