Opposition leader Nankhumwa takes on government over rising cost of living

Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa says government must explain and do something about the runaway inflation on basic commodities, which he said would throw many Malawians into abject poverty.

He said this on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 in Parliament when he demanded an explanation from government through Minister of Trade, Sosten Gwengwe over the exponential rise in prices of basic commodities in the country.

Kondwani Nankhumwa: Price increases worrying

Gwengwe said the rise has come about due to several factors including Covid-19.

Speaking in an exclusive interview after his parliament duel with government, Nankhumwa said the Tonse Alliance government has sold Malawians a dummy because it is clear that there is a huge gap between what it promised Malawians prior to its ascendancy to power and what it is actually delivering on the ground. He added that the ‘Canaan’ that Malawians were promised has been comprehensively replaced with ‘hell’.

“Malawians were promised that basic commodities such as sugar, salt, bread, cooking oil, and soap, among others would be affordable and that there will be equal opportunities for all. Today, the opposite is true.

“Prices of these essential commodities have not only increased tenfold, but Malawians are also suffering under the most punitive tax regimes in the history of multiparty democracy in this country,” said Nankhumwa.

He said the continuous rise in prices of goods has been compounded by the back-to back rise in the price of fuel, which the Tonse Alliance government has raised in rapid succession without regard to the suffering of common Malawians. He also added that the various taxes that government has introduced has only contributed in worsening the already worse situation

Said Nankhiumwa: “As you may be aware, fuel is a strategic commodity and its pricing is critical to the functioning and stability of the larger economy. The Tonse government has increased the price of fuel three times since it came to power a year ago. In December 2020, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) announced an upward adjustment of fuel pump prices.”

“Four months later, in March 2021, MERA again announced an upward adjustment of fuel pump prices. In October 2021, MERA, yet again, increased the price of fuel. Petrol now costs K1, 150 from K899.20 per litre.

“Motorists now pay K1, 120 for Diesel up from K898, and the price of paraffin has also increased from K719.60 to K833.20 and there are fears that the government is thinking of raising the price of fuel again in the near future.”

The Leader of Opposition parried away the notion that Malawi is part of the global village, and that it is only feeling the effects of a general rise in the price of commodities around the world.

Whilst accepting that this country is not an island, he said this is where leadership and planning comers in, adding that a good shepherd cannot leave his sheep to be devoured by hyenas just because someone else’s sheep were also devoured by hyenas.

“I believe we are an independent country capable of thinking independently. In fact, when the Tonse Alliance was campaigning and telling Malawians that they have solutions to our economy, I never heard them say we are sitting ducks incapable of thinking for ourselves and that we will be taking anything that other countries or donors will be dictating to us,” said Nankhumwa.

He added that he recently toured businesses in Blantyre to see for himself how people are suffering as a result of the rise in prices of goods, saying what he found was a crisis because people are suffering. He has since demanded that government must take urgent and necessary steps to arrest the intolerable increase in prices of essential commodities save the common Malawian.

However, Minister of Trade, Sosten Gwengwe says the rise in cost of cooking oil is not only dependent on Value Added Tax but also the price of crude oil which has significantly gone up. Gwengwe has indicated that Malawi exports soya beans to India, where crude oil is manufactured and thereafter, Malawian companies bring it into the country at a higher cost, which they use in manufacturing the cooking oil. He added that there are alternatives being looked at to address the challenge.

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