Peter Mutharika attacks Malawi govt. for ignoring ‘Ndata’ University, Nsanje port in budget

President of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika says he is very disappointed with government’s lack of reference to centers of higher learning and Nsanje inland port in the 2013/14 national budget which finance minister Ken Lipenga presented in parliament on Friday.

In his preliminary reaction to the budget statement, Mutharika said he was surprised and disappointed that nothing was said about universities which he said showed government’s lack of  commitment towards institutions of higher learning in the country.

“I am surprised that nothing was said about universities. There was no reference to higher education. No reference to Malawi University of Science and Technology which is sitting there [Ndata Farm in Thyolo]. I was hoping that there would reference on when the university should be opened to our children. We understand that the existing universities have no spaces and I thought there will be a reference to that,” he said.

He emphasized this is another area that needed more attention.

Peter Mutharika: Why abandoning Nsanje port?
Peter Mutharika: Why abandoning Nsanje port?

“When I was the minister of education, for the first time in the history of Malawi I established the Council for Higher Education to make sure that there is quality control but  nothing has been mentioned about that and I was surprised about that,” said Mutharika a former minister of education and university lecturer in United States.

According to the budget on education, the government is expected to employ 10,500 primary and 1,975 secondary school teachers.

He added: “Another thing is that I was surprised to that there was no reference to Nsanje port, this is another important project. To me there is a personal commitment to it but I am disappointed that the government decided to ignore that”.

Mutharika however said there are a number of things which he is happy with like government’s commitment to continue with some of social programs that the DPP started , citing the farm input subsidy and school feeding programs, saying “these are extremely important programs.”

In the budget the government has maintained the fertilizer subsidy program with the allocation of K60.1 billion, at the same subsidized price of K500 per 50kg bag of both basal and top dressing fertilizers.

Lipenga said that it is expected that the fertilizers will have been bought from the suppliers by September 2013 and that distribution will start immediately.

“Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has already worked out the specific details on the distribution modalities and schedule which includes the participation of the private sector to ensure timely distribution and without regularities,” he said.

In the same budget government has totally removed import duty on bicycles and also reduced import duty on motorbikes as a way of providing cheaper and affordable modes of transport to the under-privileged.

“Import duty on motorbikes of engine capacity not exceeding 250cc has been reduced to 15 percent and exercise tax on these motorbikes has also widely been removed considering that this mode of transport is widely used especially in the rural market areas,” said Lipenga.

On taxation of buses, Lipenga said duty on motor vehicles of seating capacity of eleven to 31 persons including the driver had been reduced to 15 percent. This also includes motor vehicles of seating of 32 to 44 people including the driver depending on the year of make.

“Zero percent for new and used motor vehicles not exceeding eight years, 10 percent for used motor vehicles exceeding years but not exceeding 12 years and 25 percent for used motor vehicles exceeding 12 years.”

He then urged operators in the sector to ensure that the benefits trickle down to the consumer through reduced transport fares.

In order to make clean energy affordable to all Malawians, Lipenga said import duty payable on inverters has been removed considering that inverters are critical in the generation of solar power.

He added that exercise tax on products such as matches has been removed considering that it is a basic commodity and has no negative externality that could make it liable for tax.

“In addition, exercise tax in ball point pens has been removed,” said Lipenga.

Leader of Opposition in parliament, John Tembo described the budget as ‘creative’ as it was just a summary, did not contain full details and that it would not benefit the poor. —Additional reporting by Malawi News Agency.

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