President Peter Mutharika has spoken of his optimism for the 2018, outlining a litany of activities which include investments in the backbone of the country’s economy – agriculture – through an ambitious project, the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) and the a K176 billion irrigation scheme.
In a New Year message, the President sounds a deliberately up-beat note, insisting that despite the enormous challenges facing Malawi will be overcome and the economy will emerge stronger than before.
Mutharika in a positive tone said his government expected the GBI revolution to start empowering communities to become producing and exporting actors of the vision.
“Around mid-year in 2018, I expect to launch construction of canals… We will pump water from Shire River and turn into gravity-fed irrigation for the farmers. The first phase will begin with 22 300 hectares,” said Mutharika in his message.
Hoping for a new progressive era with hope, Mutharika signals new government initiatives aimed at preparing Malawi’s economy to battle extreme poverty.
The initiatives include an irrigation project worth $240 million (about K176 billion) on the scale of 24 000 hectares where Nchalo Farmers’ Association in Chikwawa will partner with unnamed investor.
“These projects come in addition to major projects like the Malawi Mango and the Salima Sugar projects where production is happening,”he said.
The President in his message also disclosed that a $100 million (about K73 billion) investment on 3 000 hectares of commercial farming by company called DF Agritech is expected to take place.
Mutharika also said government will continue with the Jobs for Youth program funded by the African Development Bank; continue with cash transfers, loans for the skilled youth and involving women and youth in irrigation programs.
The President said his administration will continue to invest in infrastructure development.
“For the first time, we are building roads across villages and rural communities never ever thought about. I want every part of this country connected with decent roads. I want Malawi to have state of the art roads everywhere,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika, who faces an election in May 2019, said Malawi’s economy is likely to grow 6 percent in 2018, saying the interest rates have gone down so are policy rate now at 16 percent from 18 percent and on their way down to record levels which will make borrowing money from commercial banks “cheaper and easier.”
He said: “I want a farmer, a teacher, a nurse, a soldier, a policeman or policewoman to walk into the bank and walk out with a loan that can build him or her house somewhere,” he said.
“With affordable loans from commercial banks, we can free business women struggling with hard loans from bank mkhonde and katapila to make ends meet.In 2018, I will ensure that our economy grows more to benefit more people because that is what inclusive development is about.”
But main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) second deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said Mutharika is “living in a fantasy land of his own imagination.”
He accused the Mutharika’s government of creating more poverty in the country than reducing it and of drastically lowering education standards, leaving many Malawians illiterate.
People’s Party (PP) deputy spokesman Ackson Kalaile Banda attacked the DPP’s “failed system” that rewards the rich and makes life harder for ordinary people.
And the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Timothy Mtambo said Mutharika administration has already failed to live up to its promises, citing poor governance and worsening corruption in the corridors of power.
Analysts argue that insufficient power could, therefore, be the country’s biggest economic and social threat.
They also expect government to decisively deal with corruption.
Mutharika also faces accusations of nepotism. He rejects those charges.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :