Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) has asked members of Parliament (MPs) to seriously consider revising the minimum wage upwards, warning that maintaining it at the current amount of K35, 000 will push many Malawians into the poverty bracket.
But CfSC executive director, Father James Ngahy, argues that the current minimum wage is far below the adequate amount needed to buy food that provides adequate nutrition and buy essential needs of a household.
“CfSC is pleading with the government through MPs to increase the minimum wage for Malawians in order to reduce poverty and inequality. Our Centre believes that an increase in minimum wage will help the majority of Malawians in attaining their rights such as right to food, safe water, education and quality healthcare services,” said Ngahy.
Ngahy made the remarks in Lilongwe when the Centre briefed journalists on its stand on the proposed 202/21 national budget.
The government, through the Minister of Finance, has maintained the minimum wage in the 2020/2021 proposed budget, which is named as “Citizens Budget”.
However, Ngahy argued that the current low minimum wage is already impinging and depriving Malawians a dignified life. He added that maintaining the minimum wage at K35, 000 will only work to force Malawians into the poverty bracket.
According to Ngahy, the average cost of living of K194, 000 ($262) has been increasing on a monthly basis for the past 12 months; hence, the government needed to undertake initiatives that could spur social and economic transformation.
Ngahy further stated that the food poverty line is over K100, 000 ($135) among most Malawians while the minimum wage in Malawi remains the lowest as compared to other countries within the region.
“Given this situation, if Malawi has to move forward, then this unacceptable prevailing social-economic state of affairs should be addressed. The poor people are facing numerous social economic challenges due to post 2019 elections and the global pandemic of Covid-19,” he said.
“There is, therefore, an urgent need to undertake initiatives aimed at social and economic transformation. An increase in minimum wage is one of the initiatives that the government must implement for economic recovery, mitigation and building resilience,” added Ngahy.
He observed that the reduction in fuel prices has not translated into reduction in cost of essential goods and services.
“Has transport fare been reduced? Has the market price of the different commodities and items been reduced? Has the salary contribution to MRA been reduced? Who suffers most if not the people of the minimum wage? Even among the journalists or media experts who speak very loudly for the forgotten and marginalized feel the same pinch as most of them – most of you – are not paid well. In fact, very often they may have to spend their own resources in order to reach the area or spot of the event for coverage,” emphasized Ngahy.
The Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) secretary general Denis Kalekeni said minimum wage is not only enshrined in the Constitution of Malawi, but also in other international instruments such as the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Kalekeni said the legal instruments encourage and support periodic revision of the minimum wage to protect workers from undue low pay.
On the other hand, the CfSC programme officer Bernard Mphepo observed that increasing allocation to the Presidential Cup was not the best option the government could take to address poverty in Malawi.
“Let us accept that our economy is not in good shape, but we also need all of us to sacrifice; not leaving all the suffering to the poor. Malawians cannot graduate out of poverty with K35, 000 being our minimum wage,” said Mphepo.
Parliament which was supposed to reconvene Monday afternoon for the budget meeting after a week-long cluster meeting break where legislators analysed the K2 trillion budget presented by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwananvekha on June 12 2020, has adjourned until Wednesday June 23 to allow MPs to vote in the fresh presidential election Tuesday.
The country goes to polls for the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election following the nullification of the May 2019 presidential election which were marred by irregularities.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :