Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Goodall Gondwe has defended subsidies aimed at alleviating poverty in the country describing them as critical welfare programmes after some members of parliament questioned the effectiveness of the programmes.
Gondwe told journalists at parliament building in Lilongwe on Monday that subsidies such as farm input subsidy programme (Fisp) and Malata Subsidy programme have had an excellent impact on the poor in the country.
He also challenged his colleagues in parliament not to deny the poor subsidies as some of them (parliamentarians) were at some point also beneficiaries of the same.
“FISP has enabled the poor to buy fertilizers at a cheap price for their maize production.
“When prices of fertilizers were very high and there was no subsidy, most poor went hungry because they were not producing enough maize,” Gondwe said.
He cited the year 2002 when the country was hit hard by hunger with most households going on empty stomachs but improved tremendously in 2006 because of Fisp.
Earlier, most of the legislators were of the view that subsidies are empowering the local people.
Member of Parliament for Lilongwe North, Patricia Mkanda said that beneficiaries are not being weaned off after benefiting resulting in increasing number of beneficiaries every year.
“The original plan was that we would have this programme and then we would be phasing out. But it’s surprising that instead of phasing out, government sometimes increases the number of beneficiaries.
“We should reach a point whereby the farmers should graduate from this programme and support themselves,” she said.
Government has allocated K41.5 billion for Fisp, targeting at least one million Malawians for both fertilizer and seeds from K33.5 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year.
Parliament is meeting for the 47th session, third meeting at the parliament building in Lilongwe.