LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi’s 46th Session of Parliament and 2016/2018 budget meeting adjourned on Friday, among its achievements will be the legacy of hard working opposition block.
The eight-week meeting, which was opened with State of the Nation (SONA) address by President Peter Mutharika, did not bring much hope to Malawians on the social-economic upfront. The Parliament however passed a MK1.3 trillion 2017/2018 national budget with calls from lawmakers for fiscal discipline in its implementation.
The major key highlights were benefits for low-income Malawians in the budget that includes the raising of tax free PAYE from MK20, 000 to MK30, 000, and the minimum wage increase from MK19, 000 to MK25, 000 per month.
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 forcing Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to consider reviewing the CDF which he only increased from MK18 million to MK20 million while members of the Parliament wanted an increase to be MK30 million
Therefore with these budget adjustments, the National Local Government Finance Committee (NLGFC) has been allocated a K193.8 billion vote.
Opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera said those not following the regulations of the CDF usage, must be prosecuted in accordance with the law.
Both Gondwe and Chakwera, lauded both sides of the House for their work with endurance by making sure that the national budget is passed.
Among other notable occasions in House, is when the legislators took to task the Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano over his inaction on University of Malawi (UNIMA) labor dispute and Primary school teachers’ national strike.
The budget session of Parliament nearly went into pandemonium after the main Malawi Congress Party’ (MCP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Salima North-West Jessie Kabwira, moved the motion to curtain the day’s deliberation to pay away for government to address teachers’ nationwide strikes with urgency.
MP Kabwira went further asking Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano to resign for being accused of gross of incompetency and inept to address teachers’ woes and labor disputes over six months Chancellor College’ closure for half a year now. The MP was later informed that it was the Ministry of Finance that was responsible for releasing the funds for the teachers. The same was true for Chancellor College.
Nine bills were passed, including the International Development Association (Agricultural Support and Fiscal Management Development Policy Financing loan) in which Government has secured an US$80 million credit from the World Bank.
A milestone was registered after the opposition block joined hands and passed the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets bill with an amendment that foreign firms should not compete for Government tenders on equal level with indigenous Malawian companies.
Government will therefore, be required to give a 60-40 priority to all local firms to bid on any tender by the State.
Government however, gave a lukewarm commitment to bring the much anticipated Election bill, whose key highlight is the proposal for a simple majority to 50 + 1 and elected president’s inauguration to be held after 30 days. The bill also includes a clause for women to contest for a “women only’ seat in each district.
Another bill is the long-awaited HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management bill that was tabled in the House with the contentious provisions on willful transmission of HIV maintained.
The two bills along with Political parties’ bill, were referred to their relevant committees, which are likely to be discussed in the November seating later this year.
With an assurance from the Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa, there is the possibility that the deferred bills, particularly the Election and Political Parties bills will be passed to regulate them ahead of the campaign period for May 2019 elections.
The opposition MPs continued to set an example of active participation through the proposal of motions and tabling of questions of national importance.
For instance, the legislators demanded Government intervention on the on-going national Identity Card (ID) registration exercise challenges, scarcity of sugar, increasing of road accidents and continued presence of dangerous and cheap liquor on the Malawi market.