The DPP Government is dead broke, yet President Peter Mutharika has endorsed a 68-man (and women) delegation to accompany him to New York where he will be attending the 69th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, blowing more than MK400 million in the process.
According to highly placed government sources at Capital Hill, the figure may rise as more officials are scheduled to leave the country this weekend for New York ahead of the General Debate that starts on September 24 when Heads of State and Government address the Assembly.
President Mutharika is scheduled to present his maiden address to the Assembly as Malawi’s Head of State on September 25, 2014.
“This large number of people (68) accompanying the President is unprecedented as it is irrational considering that as a country we’re going through tough economic times,” said an economic commentator in Blantyre, preferring anonymity.
He said before, civil society and the general public have been up in arms against previous Presidents for similar conduct but “this year’s figure far much eclipses previous figures of presidential entourages”.
The 68-member delegation or more people flying to New York on taxpayers’ money make a mockery of Malawi’s ailing economy and the impoverished communities in rural and urban areas, he added.
The entourage includes ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadres, traditional chiefs, government ministers and top officials, security detail for the President, intelligence officers from the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) and the Malawi Defence Forces (MDF), journalists from both the public and private media, Presidential Personal Assistant, Ben Phiri, and his brother, Martin Nkasala, among others.
The sponsorship includes air travel, accommodation and thousands of dollars in allowances for each. Most of the members of the entourage will spend almost 15 days in New York while others will stay longer.
Return air tickets alone have cost not less than MK1.6 million each for Economy Class, MK2.1 million each for Business Class and MK4.2 million each for First Class. Allowances are in excess of MK15 million each for the VIPs and non-executiveshave received allowances ranging from Mk2.5 to MK5 million each.
Most members of the entourage left the country on Thursday, September 11, 2014 as an advance team, two weeks before the main events started. The President followed them with other members of the delegation on Sunday, September 14, 2014.
According to impeccable State House sources, at Waldorf Astoria New York Hotel where President Mutharika is lodging in an expensive Presidential Suite .
The Waldorf Astoria New York Hotel has set the standard worldwide for fine dining, lavish accommodations and 5-star events for many years. This landmark luxury New York City hotel is in the heart of Midtown, New York City, on the famous Park Avenue.
State House has also booked support staff in the same hotel at the minimum room rate of about US$4,500 (about MK2.5 million) per night. Other members of the entourage are lodging at the Double Tree on the same avenue where a minimum room rate is US$420 (MK189, 000)per night.
Malawi, largely an agricultural economy, is making efforts to overcome decades of underdevelopment and the more recent impact of a growing HIV-Aids problem. This year, Malawian traditional donors have chickened out; expressing no commitment to support the national budget for 2014/15 financial year.
Parliament is currently in session deliberating the budget, which Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe announced was estimated at MK742.8 billion.
Gondwe and company have been boxed into coming up with a budget, which they have involuntarily dubbed ‘zero-aid budget’ because the 40 percent donor contribution to the recurrent basket has been withheld.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :