UK Minister Bellingham meets President Banda, assures Malawi budget support

British Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is in Malawi and privately met President Joyce Banda at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Monday where he reaffirmed Her Majesty’s Government continued support to Malawi and anounced a 25 million pounds additional package for further implementation of various economic reforms the Banda administration is undertaking..

The Malawi leader and the British politician expressed satisfaction at the speed the southern Africa nation had made over the past 100 days of Banda’s reign in returning Malawi on a good economic and political governance path.

Renewed relations

Briefing journalists after their private talks, President Banda said that Malawi has maintained good relations with the United Kingdom over the years during which time the UK Government has provided support to all the sectors of the Malawi economy such as education, health, agriculture, energy, the governance as well as military support.

President Mrs.Joyce Banda and the UK Parliamentary Undersecretary Henry Bellingham during their discussions at sanjika palace in Blantyre.Pic Francis Mphweya-MANA

“Malawi remains highly indebted to all this support which has made a positive contribution to the lives of ordinary Malawians. I have told the Honourable Minister that we, Malawians, are particularly grateful to UK for the critical support provided to Malawi at our point of greatest need.

“When my government took the bold but necessary step of devaluing the Kwacha, UK was the first to offer us help through the release of 33 million Pounds to our Central Bank to help cushion the Kwacha during the economic reform. These resources were released even before we concluded our discussions with the International Monetary Fund on an economic programme for the country,” observed the Head of State, adding such a gesture is a manifestation of the confidence that Her Majesty’s Government has in her (Banda’s) Government.

It is pleasing to note, President said, that in addition to the 33 million Pounds, UK will be releasing an additional 25 million pounds to Malawi, which brings the total UK support to Malawi of 58 million Pounds since April this year.

She disclosed that this support will go to the health sector, the Farm Subsidy Programme and also support the emergency cash and food for the people that are food insecure.

Banda said she was “ extremely grateful”for the  UK support, especially for the people faced with food insecurity.

“ I have told the Minister that last months, I undertook assessments visits to the districts that are facing food shortages and it was clear that there was need for a rapid response to the dire situation.

“Therefore the support that the UK has given to Malawi for the emergency food and cash response is timely,” said President Banda, disclosing that the two also discussed Malawi’s medium and long term economic plan, specifically touching on the outcome of the National Dialogue on the Economy held in Mangochi.

She said she had assured the Minister of her Government’s commitment to ensuring that Malawi remains on its path undertake a full economic recovery and to also identify and implement projects within the priority sectors to facilitate an economic turnaround within the shortest period possible.

“Minister and I discussed issues related to Malawi’s democracy, human rights and governance. I have assured the Minister that my Government will nurture its democracy, build capacity of governance and accountability institutions and continue to respect the rights of the citizens as enshrined in the Republican Constitution,” said the Malawi leader, who on Sunday celebrated 100 days in office.

Bellingham’s turn

In his statement, Minister Bellingham said this was his first visit to Malawi and expressed pleasure that it came when President Banda clocked 100 days in office.

“I congratulate you on reaching this symbolic milestone and I wish you every success for the next 100 days and many more beyond that,” the Minister said.

He observed that there is a deep and longstanding relationship between the people of Britain and Malawi and that the two countries Governments are committed to continuing and developing that relationship in the interests of both countries.

“You, Madam President, were a most welcome visitor to Britain last month where you joined in the Commonwealth celebrations for Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I am already the second British Minister to visit Malawi in your first 100 days, after the International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell who came here last month,” he noted, adding both countries have chosen new High Commissioners to send to their respective Capitals and that the new British High Commissioner, Michael Nevin, will arrive in Lilongwe in September.

He said the UK wants to support Malawi’s long-term economic development through growth, trade and investment.

“We all want to see a thriving private sector and an environment that is conducive to investment. Currently, our two-way trade is worth 58.5 million Pounds per annum and the balance of trade is in Malawi’s favour.

“My ambition is to see that figure doubled, with Malawi gaining more through trade than aid. We want British companies investing in Malawi, training people and transferring skills, expertise and technology,” Bellingham said, adding that part of his itinerary is a meeting with a group of leading business people and investors “this evening to find out more”.

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