Leader of opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarous said in parliament on Monday that he is reminding all Malawians that this coming fiscal year is “ technically the last one” of President Peter Mutharika’s term of office.
Chakwera said this time next year, Mutharika and “his coterie” will be gearing up for a year of campaigning for 2019 elections, which he said will significantly divert their focus from pursuing the national development agenda.
“By this measure, President Mutharika should have used this sitting of Parliament to present a bold agenda for fulfilling his campaign promises over the next twelve months. For reasons known to himself, he has chosen not to do so. He has chosen to forget the promises he made to Malawians in his own manifesto, the commitments he made to the Public Affairs Committee, the promises he made to his own running mate [Saulos Chilima] that his experience in the private sector would be utilized to revamp the civil service, and the promises he has made before this house for the past three years,”said Chakwera.
He said Malawians are right to be disappointed by Mutharika’s three years in office thus far, and there is no reason to believe that he will do in twelve months what he has failed to do in 36 months.
“.All I can say to my fellow Malawians is, do not lose hope, because the end of your suffering under this Government’s culture of lies, looting, and laziness is in sight, and help is on the way,” said Chakwera.
Commenting on the state of the nation economy, Chakwera pointed out that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is the most fundamental indicator of how well the economy is doing.
“The President correctly acknowledges that the GDP growth rate in 2016 was a microscopic 2.7 percent, but he conveniently forgot to mention that this miserable growth rate was achieved against a projection of 5.9 percent.
“ Now he is again projecting a GDP growth rate of 5 to 6 percent, but there is no historical evidence that he should be taken seriously. This is especially the case when he takes no personal responsibility for the slagging economic growth close to a halt, and instead always blames the weather, when we all know that some contributing factors are political, and thus within his control,” said Chakwera.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, the population growth rate in this country is around 3 percent. As such a GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent therefore falls short of keeping pace with this growth rate. Consequently, you can go in the towns and villages of Malawi and ask any Malawian and they will tell you that their average annual income is dwindling. In short, we are not just poor, but are in fact being made poorer each year,” he said.
He stated that another contributing factor to the poor GDP growth rate was shortage of electricity which affected an already ailing manufacturing sector. This resulted in companies resorting to use of diesel generators, increasing the already high cost of doing business in Malawi.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, as we are all aware, almost 100 percent of electricity in Malawi is supplied by ESCOM,” he said, adding ” ESCOM was granted in excess of 37 percent base tariff increase in April 2014 to be implemented up to 2018. This real increment, which was adjusted for inflation, was meant to assist ESCOM improve its system efficiency and fund new projects. However, what we have seen, Mr. Speaker Sir, is rampant abuse of these funds by politically connected individuals.
“We heard last year that a very highly respected Finance Director resigned her position because she was being forced to make fake payments. Despite the alarm caused by her resignation, this Government said and did nothing. And yet when he stood before this House, President Mutharika mentioned the word “reform” around 25 times, when we all know that the only place in his Government you can be sure to find plenty of reform is in his speeches. The truth is that President Mutharika wouldn’t recognize reform if it hit him in the face.”
He offered a tip to the President, saying : “What I know from my own experience of leading the Malawi Congress Party through a steady process of reform is that one of the first signs that reform is really happening is when those within your ranks who are comfortable with the status quo begin to actively and publicly oppose your efforts to change it. If everyone in your party, or your cabinet, or your government is comfortable with the way you conduct business, and no one feels like their culture of complacency or attitude of entitlement is under threat, then it is a sign that everything is exactly the same as what they are used to, and that all your talk of reform is nothing but talk. But that is not reform.
“As a case in point, recently new leadership was put in place at ESCOM without any interviews at all despite the fact that this is a public institution whose job vacancies should be open to all qualifying Malawians. As a result, Mr. Speaker Sir, the Mutharika Government is creating shortages in electricity through its political interference in the institution that supplies it. That is not reform.”
Chakwera said , even the splitting of ESCOM into two independent companies as of 1st January 2017, although a welcome development, has been compromised by this Government’s decision to politically handpick those who will lead the new company.
“And this is despite the fact that the laws of this country require a competitive interview process, as well as the fact that this is one more sign among so many signs that when Mutharika promised Malawians that he would reduce the powers of the office of President, not only did he have no intention of keeping that promise, but he in fact intended to do the very opposite. That is not reform,” he said.
Chakwera also faulted government’s fiscal management as disappointing.
“Where there is good fiscal management, you find public goods and services being provided to citizens within the available limited resources. But we all know that throughout Mutharika’s presidency, public services have not been provided as desired – public hospitals have literally nothing to provide to sick people. People in both urban and rural public hospitals continue to be asked to buy their own basic medicines, including painkillers.
“ Besides, how can any president claim that he leads a Government of sound fiscal management when we know that interest being paid on domestic debt continues to be high because of heavy domestic borrowing. That is not reform.”
Meanwhile, while Mutharika’s Government continues to borrow and sink the taxpayers deeper into debt, the young people of Malawi who have entrepreneurial aspirations continue to be frustrated by interest rates that continue to be too high for them to access loans for long term investments, according to Chakwera.
“Those in the money market know that any recent deceleration in the interest rate is temporary, which is why they have kept their basic lending rates high. This is symptom that something is fundamentally and critically wrong in this economy. And yet the DPP Government does not seem to have any sense of urgency to address this situation.
“Even the much touted idea of a development bank, whose very purpose was to address this problem, is nowhere to be seen. Similarly, the President’s address was silent on the outstanding issue of establishing a Coorperative Bank, which we the people have already committed to support as it would address the problem of access to finance by our smallholder farmers and small and medium enterprises. But given that the DPP led Government’s trademark is failure to deliver on their own promises, the President’s silence on this matter was not surprising.
“ Instead of establishing people-centered banking institutions, this Government will go down in history as a Government that sells people-centered banking institutions to generate revenue for bailing elites who are politically connected out of toxic loans they owe the Malawian people. Now we hear of a development fund to be established under the auspices of a private bank, the very same sort of private commercial banks that are charging our people exorbitant interest rates. That is not reform.”
Chakwera also accused Mutharika that he “hoodwinked” Malawians into believing that he would hit the ground running and operate the business of Government with the efficiency of a private sector company, but he himself admitted in his address that Performance Contracts for ministries have only been signed two months ago, and that so far only six ministries have done so.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe is expected to present the 2017/18 budget during this sitting of Parliament.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :