Opposition political parties in Parliament remains sceptical of the measures which government plans to put in place to effect the revised budget.
In his mid-year budget statement presented to Parliament on Friday, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced a downward revision of the budget by K23.7 billion cut.
The 2015/16 approved budget was initially pegged at K929.7 billion, but is now down to K906 billion with recurrent budget reduced by just over K17.1 billion and the development budget slashed by K5.6 billion.
Leader of Opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera reacting to the revised budget, told Nyasa Times that his party is eagerly waiting to hear from the government why instead of increasing the budget to buy maize for people who are suffering with hunger and medicine from public hospitals they have resorted to cutting the budget at this critical time.
Chakwera said even though Finance Minister has acknowledged that that the economy has experienced a dramatic downturn in the first half of the financial year and revised the budget downwards, Malawians are without food, they are yet to hear what the government has done so far in the last six months and what they are intending to do in the next six months.
He said MCP is interested to hear from the government on which ministries they have cut their budget allocations and which ministry has been increased.
“They tell us there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope it is not an oncoming train,” said Chakwera.
Peoples Party (PP) chief whip, who is also financial spokesperson for the party in the house, Ralph Jooma, laughed off the budget cut as a mockery to Malawian suffering with effects of maize shortage.
Jooma told Nyasa Times that what the minister of Finance has presented is not genuine as his party expected the rise of the budget due to number of reasons.
Apart from food crisis, shortage of medicine in public hospitals, Jooma said the budget was expected to rise due to the fall of kwacha as the approved budget of K929.7 billion was done when the kwacha was at K450 to one dollar and currently it is selling at 700 which means in actual sense the budget is all below what was needed and to cut it further it will continue squeeze poor Malawians.
Alliance For Democracy (AFORD) president Enock Chihana described the budget cut as a desperation move by “inept” Mutharika led government.
Chihana said its high time DPP accept that they have failed.
Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance Chair Rhino Chiphiko questioned the credibility of the initial budget figures, saying from the onset the opposition side in the House had raised doubts.
“We asked why are we were pushing the budget to K930 billion, [and] we were told the budget is always projected upwards, but at the end of the day, are these figures realistic or just working figures?’’
In his midterm- budget statement. Gondwe said that “our economy is still passing through turbulent times.”
Gondwe has committed to reduce travel, cut vehicle and fuel entitlements, but he did not indicate what percentages of these will be deducted from the budget
He explained that in the coming months, Treasury will withhold resources for filling vacancies and work with ministries to find ways of reducing the size of the civil service.
“Cabinet has decided that Treasury and the OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet] should review the various perks, including travel, vehicle and fuel entitlements that could be scaled down,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Gondwe also announced a four-point plan for reviving the economy that mainly revolves around boosting and diversifying agricultural production, buying enough maize to reduce food shortages that have negative implications on macroeconomic stability and exploiting mineral resources.
As part of the plan, government is in the process of facilitating smallholder farmers to produce leguminous crops, whose exports should improve the balance of payments position and help stabilize the exchange rate.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :