Perhaps Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamveka should have had a word with Friday Anderson Jumbe, Malawi’s purse keeper between 2002 and 2004.
In presenting the 2003/04 National Budget, with the 2004 general elections in mind, Jumbe admitted being a stressful man.
“There is nothing difficult than developing a national budget and, even worse, presenting to the Malawian people when you, surely, know there is no money in government coffers,” he told reporters.
Jumbe’s financial challenge, then, was the flight of budgetary support from all the key donors. Against the background of limited domestic revenue, Jumbe had to develop a financial plan within that context and, as he admitted, it was never a child’s play.
Well, Mwanamveka’s predicament, in developing the 2020/21 National Budget, compares significantly with that of Jumbe.
Calling his budget, “Economic Recovery, Mitigation and Building Resilience,” Mwanamveka had a cyclone, post-elections violence, corruption, donor malaise and virus pandemic that dwarfed the effective operation of the economy.
It wasn’t a surprise when he admitted that he was presenting a K2 trillion National Budget 2020/21 problematic National Budget with a backdrop of experiencing a dramatic 35 percent drop in revenue collection. The option is more borrowing and, admittedly, Mwanamveka said government will be engaging financing agencies to cancel some of the country’s outstanding loans.
It is pleasing, though, to note that against the limited fiscal space he is caged in, Mwanamveka has made significant moves aimed at protecting the most disadvantaged.
We applaud the slashing of 50 kg fertilizer bag to K5000 and, even better, making the bag and seeds entirely free for about 100 000 to the most impoverished.
Though too little, too late, we also find the move to expand, by 10 percent, the tax-free band from K45 000 to K50 000, as refreshing in helping the least of the poor among us have considerable cash in their pockets.
However, despite such great strides, we still feel government, in this current budget set up, has taken a populist direction driven by curing immediate political symptoms.
The budget, arguably, appears to be defying economic realities on the ground, in an environment where real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected at a meagre 1.9 percent in 2020, and with a recession looming fast, as a worst-case scenario come December 2020.
It’s a budget that, mostly, tilts towards a shopping basket, a hugely welfare budget—akin to a father who promises niceties to his kids yet he doesn’t have money.
We at Nyasa Times, see the 2020/21 National Budget as a bittersweet symphony this life; a case of a trouble government trying to make ends meet, in the process, enslaving a nation in shackles of debts.
Arguably, we appear to be back in 2004. That is why Mwanamveka must have had a word with Jumbe.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :