Malawi Parliamentarian had to do over time on Thursday to pas the Appropriation Bill 2016 clearing the proposed expenditure of K1 149 375 259 646 National Budget for the 2016/17 fiscal year starting July.
After a gruesome scrutiny exercise in the committee of supply stage, which saw the budget being revised upwards by K7.7 billion, members of parliament finally gave their nod to the budget at around 18:46 in the evening.
When First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje declared the budget passed, there was a standing ovation and hand-clapping among most MPs.
During the committee of supply deliberations, another vote which faced hiccups and to be deferred was the National Local Government Finance committee where members of parliament were pushing for the revision of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
The vote had to be sent back and it was only approved late in the afternoon when government agreed to the proposed change of increasing the allocation from K12 million to K18 million.
Initially the MP’s had asked government to deduct some money from the District Development Fund (DDF) and have CDF increased to the region between K20 and K30 million but their wish was not granted.
When Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe announced that the government had considered the legislators’ demand and had, therefore, increased the CDF to K18 million per constituency, the House reacted with celebrations.
Leader of Government Business in the House Dr. George Chaponda said he was happy that the budget has been passed with the whole approval of both sides of the benches in the house which saw very constructive contributions being applied to the process.
“We all know that for the government to undertake all its development plans we need this blueprint. Having reached this far as government we are very delighted and appreciative to all the efforts that have been poured from both sides of the house to perfect this budget in whatever way possible,” said Chaponda in an interview.
“This means the government can now pursue its development programmes,” he said
On his part Leader of Opposition in the House Dr. Lazarus Chakwera also expressed satisfaction with the process the budget has gone through but said in future it would be better if MPs were given ample time to closely scrutinize the votes.
During the deliberations in the House Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Dowa-Ngala, Elia Chakwera noted that on paper the budget signifies economic growth and gives hope to Malawians because more money means better and improved services.
However, he said if past budgets are something to go by, Malawians have nothing to celebrate about this year’s financial plan.
“Our Treasury is well known for not funding programmes and activities in full. As a result ministries, departments and agencies fail to complete budgeted projects and end up accumulating arrears for procuring services and goods which they needed in order for them to operate,” he said.
Chakwera said the Finance Minister has ever been accountable to anybody in this country.
He said Malawi Parliament has never, as per tradition, followed up on how the budget performed but is often quick to consider a new budget.
“The current budget is very unrealistic. I am not sure whether as Malawi we have a trillion kwacha as of now. I am very certain that we will come back in March, 2017 to bring back this budget to reality.
“ What makes us fail to give Malawians a realistic budget so that they have realistic expectations; is the question that we must be dealing with,” said Chakwera.
He nonetheless commended government for allocating funds to revamp irrigation to ensure food security.
“ If indeed we have to deal with hunger we must invest in producing food of our own rather than depend on other people to support us all the time,” he said/
“Since multiparty democracy, we have increased government burden to people through targeted subsidy programmes. Even when we know we do not have such money, we keep promising Malawians that they are going to have hand-outs. This is very unfortunate,” said Chakwera.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :