Newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Dr George Chaponda, has announced some cost-cutting measures, including the closure some of the country’s embassies.
Chaponda said after being sworn-in to take his portfolio that among his primary priorities was reducing the number of embassies that Malawi has partly as cost-cutting measure.
“We are a poor country and we only need to maintain those embassies that are crucial to our country other than having embassies in countries that are critical in contributing to Malawi,” said Chaponda.
He said the closure of some embassies would ensure that government operates within its budget and that the country maintains fiscal discipline.
Chaponda, who did not state the exact time some embassies would be shut, however, hinted that the country would also reduce numbers of staff in its foreign missions “to make sure that we’re able to manage them.”
Most of the staff in embassies were sent on diplomatic tour of duty on political patronage rather than being career diplomats.
President Peter Mutharika said Foreign policy would be based on what is best for Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries where 40 percent of the budget comes from aid.
He said on his inauguration that Malawi, traditionally dependent on Western aid donors, will look for “new friends” in countries such as China and Russia.
And speaking during state opening of parliament on Tuesday, Mutharika said the DPP-led Government believes in fostering international relations that can ably strengthen Malawi’s drive towards a developmental state by embracing development diplomacy.
“We will establish and strengthen relations with development partners from the West, the East, North and South, alike. We will remain committed to the ideals of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) and other International Organisations where Malawi is a member,” he said.
Mutharika, brother to the late 2004-12 president Bingu wa Mutharika, won a chaotic general election on 20 May, ousting his predecessor Joyce Banda.
He faces the task of restoring relations with donors who slashed aid making up 40% of Malawi’s budget following a massive corruption scandal.