Chakwera trashes ‘zero-grade’ budget:  Malawi govt priorities upside down

The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president  Rev Dr Lazarous Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition,  on Wednesday gave a critique to the zero-aid budget, questioning  government for  proposing tax breaks for  commercial banks.

Chakwera in his take to examine the K742.6 billion 2014/15 national budget said zero-aid budget promotes consumption and offers the working class who pay the majority of taxes little protection from the rising cost of living.

” We are being asked to approve a budget that offers tax breaks for corporations and banks, the same banks that were previously complicit in lending money to government illegally; the same banks that were recently complicit in facilitating illegal pay-outs to Cash gate thieves; the same banks that regularly crush the working man with extravagant interest rates; the same banks that rob the working class through multiple hidden service fees,” he said.

Chakwera: It's zero-grade budget
Chakwera: It’s zero-grade budget

He added: “What all working Malawians know is that they now live in a country where the pricing practices by corporations and banks are predatory and out of control, where corporations and banks register unconscionable profit margins on the backs of working Malawians whose purchasing power is steadily being bled to death,”

Malawians have been complaining over the conduct of the banks who have been cashing  on the  poor .

“What they [Malawians] do not know is that their government and these institutions are bed-fellows, that the government whose job it is to protect them from corporate greed actually feeds them to the lions who perpetrate it,” said Chakwera.

The MCP president described it as a “zero-trade”, “zero-paid”, “zero-shade” and “zero-grade” budget.

Chakwera  also pointed out that civil servants are not happy with their poor income and reminded the Democratic Progressive Party government that they had promised to remunerate civil servants adequately if voted into office..

“Civil servants are not happy with their income, but what matters to the government is that the banks are happy. Who in this country really believes that banks are the ones who really need some shade from the scorching heat of this feverish economy? Who in this country would support a budget that awards the very institutions that have failed them?”

Chakwera said the reasoning is of pleasing the banks and asking MPs to support such kind of budget is irrelevant.

“The people of Malawi deserve a day in which their government will provide some shade to the working class who work the longest in the heat of a bad economy and whose taxes finance the bulk of any budget, but sadly, today is not that day,” said the MCP president.

Chakwera described a budget as a “zero-grade” financial plan.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, what has been presented can even be called a  zero-grade budget since it shows that government has no interest in scoring even the minimum grade in its budget allocation for various sectors. 26% is the recommended standard for budget allocations to education in SADC countries, but here we are deliberating a budget that allocates 17% towards education while we have over 20,000 qualified teachers with no employment and a host of other ticking time-bombs. Are we serious about developing this country?

“Can a country prosper without a robust and well- resourced education system that empowers its people with skills for development?” queried Chakwera.

Adding that: “Look at the health sector: not too long ago we were crying foul over rotting corpses in our mortuaries, missing drugs in our hospitals, and other issues. But while the Abuja Declaration recommends a 15% budgetary allocation to health, here we are contemplating a budget that allocates less than 10%. ”

He also was sceptical about the collection of the proposed revenue this year.

The National Assembly, which was adjourned last Tuesday to allow Parliamentary Committees examine the K742.6 billion 2014/15 national budget, resumed sitting on Wednesday to begin debate on the zero0-aid budget.

The House was initially adjourned following the adoption of new Standings Orders to allow Parliamentary Committees to examine the budget allocations and estimates as proposed by the Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe last Tuesday.

The agriculture sector has been allocated a lion’s share of K142 billion, which includes K50.8 billion for fertiliser subsidy. Health has been allocated K65.2 billion, Education K127 billion while Transport and Public Works has received K31 billion.

Gondwe has also increased allocation to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) by 167 percent to make sure “its efforts in fighting graft are not hampered by lack of funding”.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Judiciary and the Malawi Police Service have also received large increments for the same reason.

Another key highlight in the budget is the extra K7 billion allocated to the Ministry of Lands, Urban Development and Housing to introduce a pilot scheme in subsidising iron sheets and cement.

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