Mutharika on-the-job training, says Chakwera: ‘Govt is serious business’

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president and leader of opposition in parliament, Lazarous Chakwera has charged that the State President Peter Mutharika’s speech during the opening of the National Assembly “lacked detail” and displayed Mutharika as a leader “on-the-job training”.

Responding to the presidential speech on Friday, Chakwera said the State of the Nation address was hollow.

The 74-year-old president, who is a brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, said he would pursue policies that had been adopted by his sibling before his death two years ago.

Mutharika:  His speech said to lack details
Mutharika: His speech said to lack details
Chakwera: Mutharika on-the-job training
Chakwera: Mutharika on-the-job training

“Malawians cast their votes for President, the new President has just told us that Malawians will have to wait another 100 days before he has a budget for the year,” Chakwera said.

He said delays in presenting a full national budget and appointing a full cabinet are “worrying signs of a lack of preparation, and in my view, a justification for all Malawians to demand their President to take his own very good advice when he said, ‘Government is serious business, and one needs to be ready. Being president is no time for on-the-job-training”.

Mutharika has asked Malawians to give him three months before his government comes up with a national budget as the preparations he found when he took over power were not satisfactory. He said the Finance minister will initially present a provisional budget for July-October.

But Chakwera said “a provisional budget smells like on-the-job training to me.”

He challenged Mutharika that if it isn’t, then the President should give Malawians “a comprehensive action plan without gaps, a complete budget without delay, and a capable cabinet without hand-clappers.”

“It’s what the people hired you for. We, the people’s representatives in Parliament, are ready for work when you are,” said Chakwera.

In his critique to the President’s speech, Chakwera noted that overall, the address is “ambitious and mentions a lot of important things the government can do to develop the country.”

“I am glad that the president recognizes that this country has enormous and daunting challenges which require urgent action. Now as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Malawians are tired of repeated rhetoric which has become so irritating at times,” he said.

“In fact sometimes it feels like you can actually super impose any past parliament inaugural speech with the one delivered now. What I am saying is that while what we heard [on Tuesday] may have sounded hopeful and reassuring, the point is we have heard it before,” Chakwera told Parliament.

 Hollow speech

“What we need now is a clear road map with specific time frame within which clearly defined deliverables will be attained,” said Chakwera.

The MCP leader said it is unfortunate that the state of the nation address was delivered in the absence of the cabinet.

“Not having a full cabinet even as we respond to this address for instance sends a wrong signal especially when we promised that we would hit the ground running if voted into power. It is hard to envisage how the DPP led government will Transform Our Country into a Prosperous Nation.”

Mutharika finally appointed nine ministers on Thursday. A tenth minister, former International Monetary Fund official Goodall Gondwe, had already been given the finance portfolio and sworn in earlier this month.

The delay in appointing ministers was linked to Mutharika’s promise to trim the cabinet down to 20 from 32 members to save expenditure, which requires him to restructure it.

Chakwera stressed that Mutharika’s 75-minute speech lacked detail and gave it a thumbs down.

“Mr. Speaker, Sir, the speech lacks detail. It therefore, inherently makes it a serious challenge to figure out the real critical issues important for success of the country,” said Chakwera.

“Simply put, the speech spells the ‘what’, the “wish” list but not much of the ‘how’ including where the resources to meet such lofty ambitions and aspirations will come from and how they will be mobilized.

“Furthermore, there are no timelines given, no milestones articulated and no sense of prioritization in terms of importance and time line basis. There are also no implementation challenges identified.”

Chakwera also noted that some points “ lacked clarification “like  the Cashgate scandal, Mutharika did not give details in terms of an action plan and which periods would be investigated.

“There is need to be clear on what exact steps government will take to ensure that the cashgate and jetgate scandals are going to be concluded to the satisfaction of all Malawians.”

Offer tips

On agriculture, Chakwera said the issue cannot just be about subsidies.

“Abolishing the coupon system will not necessarily address challenges facing the agriculture sector in this country,” he pointed out.

Chakwera said Mutharika’s speech did not tackle the issue of access to markets which is critical to the agriculture sector.

“It is not right that in this day and age that some of our high value crops are still sold by the road side due to lack of an organised market system.

“Again food security cannot just be about maize production. We need to go beyond maize production to achieve sustainable food security. Again we need to accept that income security is key to achieving food security.”

Members will continue the debate of the President’s speech.

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