LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)– Malawi Parliament on Thursday, passed the 2017/18 national budget worth MK1.3 trillion, with calls from Parliamentarians for Government fiscal discipline in implementation it.
The lawmakers got their wishes for the increase of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from MK18 million to MK23 million, representing a 66% rise.
The CDF increase came after members from both sides of the House joined forces in impelling Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to consider reviewing the DF. Gondwe at first only increased from MK18 million to MK20 million; however the members of the Parliament wanted the increase to be up to MK30 million.
Therefore with these budget adjustments the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) was allocated a K193.8 billion vote.
On Tuesday, the NLGFC vote was deferred after Gondwe stood firm and refuses to increase the amount. He said if it was not for his love of the CDF, Government could have removed the whole allocation due to the noncompliance by some members of the House.
Some members found this unacceptable and stood to speak against Gondwe’s statements; they argued that it was not the MPs who abused the funds, but secretariat at the council. They further challenged the Minister to conduct investigations in the matter.
The MPs continued to ask Gondwe to consider the CDF increase allocation. They also demanded that Finance Minister removes the 5 boreholes per constituency funds from the Local Councils and allocate them to the Member of Parliament.
The House adjourned for at one hour after leader of opposition proposed that Cabinet ministers and party leaders meet over the impasses. This saved the situation, because when the House reconvened, it was announced that the Finance Minister on provisions agreed upon.
Fonder said the leaders agreed that for the CDF be increased to MK23 million per constituency, the K12 million water project fund be under the authority of the MP of an area, who is to decide where to drill the boreholes or any other water project, with the technical advice only from the Government.
“As far as the figures are concerned, we agreed the CDF be increased to K23 million and MK12 million for water projects per constituency. It was also agreed that we will, as a House, strongly recommend that those tarnishing our image be prosecuted,” Gondwe said.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party’ (MCP) President Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Leader of opposition in the House, called for fiscal discipline for the implementation of the national budget.
Chakwera said those not following the regulations of CDF usage, must be prosecuted in accordance with the laws of Malawi.
Both Gondwe and the MCP leader, lauded both sides of the House for their work with endurance by making sure that the national budget is passed.
The major key highlights benefits for low income Malawians in the budget, includes raising tax free-PAYE from MK20,000 to MK30,000, and minimum wage increase from MK19,000 to MK25,000 per month.