Malawi Congress Party’s response to the 2017/18 mid-year budget review statement in Parliament will go down in Malawi parliament’s history as one of the most irresponsible, unethical and extremely provocative official statements.
The MCP statement presented on behalf of the party by Alexander Mandaliza Kusamba Dzonzi, MP for Dowa West, did not bear any semblance of an ‘alternative government’ statement but held the tag of jungle politics played to incite political anarchy in an otherwise peaceful political environment.
The MP literally hurled insults at the Head of State, the Minister of Finance and the entire Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), at some point calling them ‘demons’, instead of adequately addressing the substantive matters as contained in the government’s fiscal review statement.
The MCP statement was politically charged and more of some desperate attempt to use parliament to campaign for election on May 21, 2019 than what it is exactly supposed to be-response to the mid-term budget review statement.
In all fairness, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe presented a detailed 2017/18 fiscal update, within which he outlined the challenges that have resulted in the missing of some targets in the first half of the financial year.
Minister Gondwe highlighted three obstacles that could have derailed the achievement of financial targets “that were to anchor the maintenance of the hard won macroeconomic stability and the economic rebound”. These obstacles included the Government’s bailing out of ADMARC with an amount of MK45.2 billion to commercial banks that extended loans to ADMARC to purchase maize and other crops.
According to the Finance Minister, the second setback was an unbudgeted excess of wage expenditure of over MK5 billion by the Malawi Police Service and the Defence Force. The third setback that he highlighted was the “slowdown of revenue collection by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA)”, explaining that at the end of the first half of 2017/18, the under collection of revenue amounted to MK45.9 billion “of which MK38.1 billion was tax under collection and MK7.8 billion was the non-tax revenue under collection”.
Without going into the finer details of the minister’s mid-term budget review itself, it is imperative to note that the minister clearly outlined the underpinning budgetary issues, which would lead to achieving the set targets within the recurrent budget in the second half of the 2017/18 financial year.
It is clear from the statements that MCP leaders, including its MCP President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, make in parliament since 2014 in response to any government official statement, including the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA),are always an opportunity to throw mud at the DPP government and its leadership. They are full of fury and usually directed at the Head of State as an individual instead of addressing the policy position that his administration has so far pursued.
Dr. Chakwera’s trusted lieutenants, like Alexander Mandaliza Kusamba Dzonzi, have quickly learnt the art of denigrating the President of the Republic and his administration with reckless abandon.
Kusamba Dzonzi’s response to the mid-term budget review statement presented by the minister of finance Goodall Gondwe was simply acrimonious and ‘unparliamentary’, to say the least. Indeed, the MCP found parliament as an appropriate forum to raise its political stakes at the expense of serving Malawi.
Among the major tasks of the opposition in parliament include scrutinizing the work of the government, initiating debate about policies and presenting alternatives to bills brought forward by government. However, in Malawi, it seems opposition MCP leaders have mastered the art of dismissing anything that the DPP government proposes as ‘empty’. Whenever the Head of State presents SONA, it is empty, according to Dr. Chakwera and MCP.
So, it did not come as a surprise when in his response to the mid-term budget review statement, the ‘Honourable’ MCP spokesperson on finance disparagingly referred to the DPP government “clueless” and “incapable of being honest with the people it governs”. Ridiculing President of the Republic and government is now in their blood.
But it is imperative that as ‘alternative government’, the MCP leadership must act responsibly with a high degree of integrity. The MCP leadership must be exemplary to the ordinary Malawians by addressing President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika with due respect.
The MCP leadership must always bear in mind that President Mutharika and his DPP administration were duly elected by the people of Malawi on May 20, 2014. They are governing this country with the backing of the Constitution of this great Republic.
Under Professor Mutharika’s leadership, the economy has indeed experienced a rebound, especially considering that in 2014, the economy was in total ruins due to ‘cashgate’ and the subsequent flight of traditional Western donors owing to economic mismanagement.
According to the Finance Minister, although government borrowing would increase, slightly, from MK27.8 billion to MK33.7 billion, the 2017/18 budget review exercise “has succeeded to retain the essence of the budget and will not lead to macroeconomic instability in form of a higher rate of inflation but will maintain the downwards trajectory of the rate of inflation. It is therefore confirmed, as IMF also did, that the estimated inflation figure this year will be 11 percent as against 20 percent in 2016, he said.
The Finance Minister also reported to the house that various development projects that were budgeted for completion within the financial year are well on course for completion. Indeed, the DPP Government under His President Mutharika has instituted various development initiatives aimed at uplifting the socioeconomic profile of Malawians and it is quite strange that the MCP leadership chooses to look the other way.
MRA is expected to collect more revenue because power generation and distribution are expected to tremendously improve in the second half of the financial year thereby boosting the manufacturing sector and the general trade industry. The improvement in power supply would be due to various short and medium term interventions that government is taking in the power sector.
Supply of potable water both in urban and rural areas has steadily improved. There are many other positive initiatives that the DPP Government is currently implementing aimed at improving the social and economic status of Malawians such as youth skills development through the establishment of community technical colleges and construction and rehabilitation of roads, among others.
Instead of acknowledging the many positive social and economic strides registered in the past three, under obvious difficult circumstances, Dr. Chakwera and his loyal MCP lieutenants have opted to be the later day naysayers, oblivious of these developments.
The Leader of Opposition and his lieutenants must come out of their cocoon of denial and stop parroting the same tired, old and narrow-minded line that sees government always in a negative light. The MCP must therefore criticize whilst offering alternative options.
MCP leader Chakwera and his lieutenants are well aware that for 31 years since independence in 1964, the MCP government did not lay the necessary foundation for meaningful social and economic development. The current MCP leadership is, therefore, acting a hypocrite when they attempt to imply the DPP Government is responsible for Malawi’s current social and economic status quo.
Chakwera and the entire MCP leadership in parliament must desist from using parliament as a vehicle to achieve political ambitions. Malawians want meaningful participation and contribution by their representatives in parliament in order to actualize their aspirations and uplift their living standards not mere politicking to advance individual political ambitions.
- The author is a Blantyre-based social and political commentator