Outspoken Rumphi East member of Parliament (MP) Kamlepo Kalua has slammed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of embarking on a crusade to lay foundations stones for projects merely as election campaign gimmick and Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee has observed that the long list of infrastructure projects government plans to embark from now to next year would be a public debt bargain.
Speaking in Parliament after Mzimba South West member of Parliament (MP) Khumbo Kachali asked for tarmac in most of the major road projects in Mzimba including Jenda-Edingeni and Mzimba-Eswazini-Kafukule.
He stood on point of order after Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango said they were facing money problems.
“It is true and amazing whether it is in order for the Minister to tell this House that when money is available, when they are very busy, all over the country putting stones, opening up new roads with stones. Which is which?” wondered Kalua.
But Mhango explained that government has worked on 15 kilometres of the Jenda-Edingeni road and currently the contractor is going back on site to do another 15 kilometres.
“We have adopted a policy in the ministry where we will be taking a phase approach when it comes to these road projects. We know we may not have all the money at the same time to do a long stretch. We are taking what we call a phase approach. Therefore, a contractor will be back on site very shortly to tackle another 15 kilometres, all the way to Embangweni,” Mhango said.
“For the other roads, we are discussing within the ministry to see how these road projects can be resuscitated. Like I said, these things require a lot of money and currently we do not have such kind of money but we are in discussion to find the best way out of the situation,” he added.
Dedza East legislator Juliana Lunguzi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) added her voice to the matter, saying Minister Mhango made “confusing statements” that they do not have money and that they will be doing things in phases yet there are so many ground breakings on roads.
But Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya said there was “no conflict” in what the Minister said.
“They can break so many grounds because they are doing it in phases,” said the Speaker.
Meanwhile, Budget and Finance Committee chairperson Rhino Chiphiko said list of infrastrucre projects presented by Mhango in Parliament could build up more debt by contracting for projects through promissory notes.
Chiphiko said the projects are being undertaken in the last year leading up to elections “merely an election gimmick” that will not be fulfilled due to delays in disbursement of funds at the expense of equally important projects in health and education.
Mhango informed parliament that the projects include Ntcheu-Tsangano-Neno Road, upgrading of Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga Road, Blantyre Bypass Ring Road, upgrading of Kawere-Mkanda Road and upgrading of Rumphi to Hewe Turn-Off Road.
President Peter Mutharika has also hinted on more projects, saying his government also plans to construct a ring road in the capital Lilongwe. Similarly, there are plans for dual carriageways earmarked for the Southern, Central and Northern regions.
Mhango said the funds had been made available through donors or tax-funds.
He said the Lumbadzi-Dowa-Chezi Road has been allocated K1.2billio in the budget with funding from Arab donors.
In the budget there is allocation of K5 billion for the Lilongwe Old Airport-Kasiya-Santhe Road and K4 billion to Nctheu-Tsangano-Neno Road.
But Chiphiko said the economy will be strained further with increasing public debts when road infrastructure projects are paid through promissory notes.
Economists say while the growing public debt puts a burden on future generations, it is worrying that government continues to borrow mostly for consumption.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), public debt is at 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Commentators are demanding transparency and accountability in all the projects on their funding mechanism as DPP government is said to be touting the projects to merely lure voters.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :