President Peter Mutharika has dismissed reports that his government plans to buy a US$51 million (K51 billion) presidential jet, saying the reports are false.
He was speaking in Lilongwe on Sunday on his return from the Republic of South Africa where he attended the BRICS Summit.
According to press reports, the issue of purchasing a new presidential jet was tabled at a cluster meeting between Malawi Defence Force (MDF)officials and the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Security in May this year and that Treasury have confirmed the plans.
Government was considering buying a new jet in order to make international travel for the President more convenient.
But Mutharika, who is currently using either chartered or commercial flights, said a new jet was not under consideration.
Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) said if the authorities will pursue the plans to buy the jet it will be insensitive as the plane only benefits an individual at the expense of other pressing needs.
Mejn executive director Dalitso Kubalasa said the country “ needs to look at our priorities again,”
The country’s last presidential jet was sold by the former president, Joyce Banda, in 2012 in an attempt to boost her popularity both domestically and internationally.
The jet had become a symbol of the increasingly erratic rule of Mutharika’s elder brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, who was president between 2004 and April 2012.
Indeed, the purchase of the jet in 2010 was one of the factors that prompted donors to suspend aid to the country in 2011.
When Banda became president after Bingu wa Mutharika’s death in April 2012, donors reinstated direct aid on the understanding that, among other actions to clean up the country’s public finances, she would sell the jet.
Although Banda met this condition, it later transpired that the jet had been sold to a company that leased the jet back to Banda, and allegedly received preferential treatment in the award of government contracts – this allegation was never proved, but the affair was one of the factors that contributed to donors withdrawing direct government aid once again in 2013.