Opposition doubts Lipenga’s credibility on Malawi mid-term budget performance

Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ganged up on Friday in questioning the credibility of Finance Minister Dr Ken Lipenga in his 2012/13 mid-year budget statement.

Lipenga was the country’s purse keeper who oversaw the exaggeration of revenue figures under the Bingu wa Mutharika administration during the infamous zero-deficit budget.  He was also in-charge when budget director Dr. Dalitso Kabambe ordered the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to borrow K15 billion from local commercial banks and pretend it is government tax revenue.

As Finance Minister, Lipenga went ahead to lie to Parliament and the whole country that the weird zero-deficit budget was working but he was only exonerated by “a sham of an investigation”  headed by Vice-President Khumbo Kachali and comprised other Cabinet members  such as Lipenga’s immediate predecessor, Ken Kandodo.

Commenting on Lipenga’s mid-year budget statement which indicated the bloating of total expenditure and net lending by K68 billion (about $188.9 million), Leader of Opposition John Tembo had misgivings on the over-performance of key fiscal targets “until Parliament verifies vote by vote in the coming days”.

Lipenga: Says performance of budget has been successful
Lipenga: Says performance of budget has been successful

Tembo, who is president of MCP, said Lipenga’s mid-term budget the statement lacked specifics.

Leader of DPP in the House, Dr George Chaponda criticised Lipenga for claiming that budget implementation in the first half has been “successful.

“The first impression [to the mid-term budget statement] is that major issues did not come out,” said Chaponda.

“For instance, we did not hear how government will deal with high inflation rate and high interest rate now at 40 percent,” he added.

Lipenga said in his mid-term budget statement that recurrent expenditures are expected to increase from the original estimate of K332.2 billion (about $922.8 million) to K381.3 billion (about $1.06 billion) while development expenditures are expected to jump to K94.5 billion (about $262.5 million) from K76.2 billion (about $211.7 million).

The Finance Minister also said domestic revenues—which comprise tax and non-tax revenues—have been revised upwards to K278.9 billion (about $774.7 million) from K270.4 billion (about $751.1 million) approved in the budget.

“I am proud to state that the Budget is on track – we have contained expenditures within the budgetary ceiling, while our targets for revenue and debt repayment are on track,” Lipenga told Parliament.

The Finance Minister said while he is pleased with the mid-year budget performance, pointed out that that there is no room for complacency.

“We must reaffirm our commitment to the economic reform programme in order for it to bear fruit and for us to achieve our vision of a peaceful and democratic nation where all can realize their full human potential,” he said.

“We have made some progress, but there is still a lot more to do,” he said.

The minister also outlined key achievements in the first half of the fiscal year which include timely distribution of fertiliser under Farm Input Subsidy Program, delivery of maize to the strategic grain reserves and securing of funds from donors to replenish the reserves and the completion of various road projects across the country, among others.


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