President Lazarus Chakwera is this Thursday chairing a Cabinet meeting at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe to discuss among other issues the flopping of Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) which has rendered farmers destitute with most having to queue for long hours without redeeming the inputs.
Last week, President Lazarus Chakwera, in his weekly address, also expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the programme is being implemented.
The President said in a radio address he intends to meet Cabinet ministers to discuss how best government can resolve the AIP implementation challenges.
The cabinet meeting was confirmed by Office of President and Cabinet at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.
The Tonse Alliance government promised during the campaign prior to the June 23 fresh presidential election that it will offer a universal farm input subsidy to Malawians. The government replaced the Farm Input Subsidy Programme with a new policy dubbed AIP.
State vice-president Saulos Chilima, who is also Minister of Economic Planning and Public Sector Reforms, will join discussions at the top table with the President.
The 32-member Cabinet is also meeting as the Chakwera administration has faced media backlash over sentiments expressed by Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda that government does not care about the consequences of unceremoniously cancelling an investment deal, which a leading daily newspaper has commented in its editorial column that “Malawians have every reasons to get worried.”
Chimwendo comments were on the offer by the Malawi government for an investor to use a Police C Company site along the Kamuzu Procession Road in Lilongwe’s Old Town to construct police houses and shopping town in the deal which 20 hectares of land was bartered for the project.
He said they want the deal to be reviewed and that Cabinet will get a consensus on how to proceed with the infrastructure, saying there is no way they would allow “barter” deal whether it followed due process of the law.
Said Chimwendo Banda: “Government does not batter land whatsoever and this government will not barter land. This is not happening, whether there are consequences or not. Let the law take its course.”
Daily newspaper, The Nation, noted in its report on the matter, that some of the consequences that Chimwendo Banda does not care about include a potential fall in investor confidence on the back on uncertainities , which could sharply shrink both foreign direct and domestic investment.
It pointed out that a drop in investment could sharply damage a country that has already lost balance of payment support from development partners largely due to weak public finance management and poor economic governance in general.
In its extended coverage, the paper’s editorial comment said for a country in dire need of investment amid dwindling inflow of Foreign Direct Investment, “it is suicidal to handle a potential investors with such cheekiness.”
The editorial comment wondered that if the so-called ‘barter’ deal was wrong, the reversal was correcting or worsening the situation.
“We see it as an emotional decision seen through political goggles but with little or no justification,” the paper said.
It said Malawians are waiting for one million jobs promised by Chakwera during the campaign and the proposed “shopping town” by the investor in the ‘barter’ deal is one of the potential creators of such jobs.
The paper said it is “unfortunate” that instead of creating a conducive environment for investment, the prospective investors are being frustrated by the government.
“There is need to tread carefully on this issue as investment decisions have far-reaching consequences on future generations,” concluded the comment.
According to the deal of the land seen by Nyasa Times, the contractor would construct 140 three bed roomed dwelling houses, office blocks, an armoury, a shooting range, a garage plus inspection pit, parade and football grounds, a multipurpose hall at various locations to be agreed with Malawi Police Services.
Under terms of the deal, which was signed by the previous government, involves construction of an extra 160 three bed roomed dwelling houses at the National Police Headquarters in Area 30 Lilongwe.
The barter-deal also means the contractor would construct desegregated houses for up to 150 males and 140 females that will accommodate up to eight persons per room with parking for four armoured vehicles at Area 6 in Lilongwe.
Authorities say the deal is legally binding with consultations done for period of about two years with representation at both senior and technical level during the previous regime.
Key ministries and institutions involved in the consultations were Ministry of Homeland , Lands, Ministry of Transport , Ministry of Finance , Ministry of Justice which vetted, Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) and the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Wadi & Associates, lawyers for tthe project who are specialist attorneys in construction contracts and land law, confirmed the negotiations took very long to ensure compliance with all legal requirements as well as standards and specifications of the buildings.
The attonneys also mentioned that the (construction in exchange of land project involved an aspect of public disposal and Section 38 (2) (c) of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act was duly complied.
As the agreement had a time clause, implementation of the agreement commenced forthwith and there has been part performance of the contract in respect of planning, drawings, mobilization of materials and equipment and actual construction works.
The plans and drawings were duly processed and there were approved by Lilongwe City Council.
Observers say it would be economical for government to uphold the contract which would have made it possible for Police to acquire modern houses for their staff.
It is generally undisputed that the area where PMF is located in Area 2 is no longer suitable for use as a residential area.
This is a second time a barter-deal with Malawi government has become controversial.
Former president Joyce Banda had signed also weapon procurement deal with South Africa’s Paramount Group to supply Malawi with equipment that includes seven interceptor boats and training for the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) bartering a presidential jet.
However, the deal was cancelled in August 2013 by former president Peter Mutharika, as it was seen to be substantially over-valued while its repayment terms were unsustainable for the struggling economy.
However, after concluding its probe of the deal, the government decided to renegotiate terms instead of cancelling it.
The government discovered that ex-President Banda had violated the constitution by barter-trading the Dassault Falcon 900EX jet, valued at $15 million, to a Paramount Group subsidiary as part of the settlement for the arms deal. The jet was sold in 2012.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :