Members of Parliament (MPs) have given President Peter Mutharika a stamp of approval to maintain the targeted Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) in the next five years despite calls to have the programme abolished.
Since 2005, Malawi has invested about K398.6 billion in Fisp, an equivalent of a third of the K1.4 trillion national budget, raising calls from opposition parties and other commentators, including Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama), for government to abolish the programme because it is not achieving its intended purpose.
United Democratic Front (UDF) Leader in the House Lilian Patel said her party considers FISP as a social protection program targeting the poor “and it must not stop.”
But Patel said the program has slowly become a cash cow for suppliers and those in the transport industry while poor villagers remain poor.
“The number of beneficiaries continues to be reduced and yet the actual numbers of poor people are on the increase,” Patel pointed out.
In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) during the opening of the First Meeting of the 48th Session of Parliament in Lilongwe on Friday, the President, despite acknowledging challenges that have rocked the programme over the past years, said Fisp will not stop.
Mutharika said he welcomes suggestions on how the multi-billion kwacha programme can be improved.
“We will, however, continue finding ways to make the programme more efficient and sustainable. I want more of our poor farmers to benefit. I want the programme to benefit those which it targets,” said Mutharika.
In his contribution, governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator for
Chiradzulu Central, McTimes Malowa, said among the gains the country has is food security as a result of FISP.
Malowa said people of Chiradzulu Central are now “happy and excited” that the President Mutharika assured Malawians that FISP is here to stay.
“This is a pro-poor initiative which will benefit every poor household in Malawi and Chiradzulu Central in particular.
“We know there was a school of thought from our colleagues on the opposite bench that looked at abolishing this initiative. The people of Malawi have agreed that they are in good terms with this programme and have accorded Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika another five years to keep championing this pro-poor programme. The people of Chiradzulu Central are saying, long live Professor Delivery, and long live FISP,” said Malowa.
Another MP who added her voice in support of Fisp is MP for Chikwawa West, Susan Dossi, (Independent but supporting DPP), saying it is “good news “that the programme will not stop.
“The people of my constituency have benefited from this programme since it started. However, I would like to ask government to consider increasing the number of beneficiaries,” said Dossi.
In his contribution, Ramzan Juma Mohammed, MP for Nsanje South (Independent) said he was pleased that government has promised to continue providing poor farmers with affordable fertilizer and seeds.
“This is a welcome idea in as far as the challenges that the poor farmers are facing are concerned. I pray that this programme should not stop,” he said.
Catholic University dean of Social Sciences Gilbert Kachamba said Fisp is a waste of resources, stressing that the programme was a good short-term strategy to deal with food shortages but it has now turned to be “ a long-term political strategy.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :