Written by JOYCE BANDA
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am delighted this morning to preside over the State Opening of the 44th Session of this august House.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you, Mr. Speaker, Sir, and all Members of this Honourable House, a happy and very prosperous New Year.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, steadily the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope. Our country which for sometime has bled from a thousand wounds is progressively moving towards healing.
The continuing process of social, economic and political emancipation, to which we are all subject, constitutes an evolving act of self –definition. At the dawn of our recovery, our practical actions must ensure that none can challenge us when as a nation together- we shall say: we have recovered!
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, millions of our people breathed a sigh of relief when this Government was sworn- in on 7th April last year. They hoped for a better life. It is that hope for a better life that this Government is founded on and driven by.
To our people, this Government has committed itself to constructing a people –centred society. To realise this, we are guided by the desire to build a caring and an inclusive society.
This society must guarantee the dignity of every citizen on the basis of a good quality life for every woman, man, and child without regard to tribe, gender, or political affiliation. A society where an environment is conducive for every citizen to realise his or her potential.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we seek to replace a society which in many ways has been brutal, exclusive and humiliating to many of our people.
The society we seek to replace was built on the law of the jungle of the survival of the fittest. Accordingly, the weakest who were denied access to power became the landless, the unemployed, the uneducated, and the victims of abject poverty. Among these, are those in our cities and towns, those in our villages and orphanages, who have lost all hope and all self worth, who have slid into crime, and self pity.
The society we seek to replace entrenched corruption in all areas of human activity where concepts of right and wrong are dead and therefore, everything that serves personal interests is permissible.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, all this shows that there are challenges we face in order to succeed in creating the caring society we have spoken of. For this reason, the task before us cannot be carried out by government alone.
The challenge of recovering our economy and developing our society into one which guarantees human dignity, fosters development and national unity faces the entirety of our people.
It is a national task that calls for the mobilisation of the whole nation into a national united people’s action, into a partnership with government for transformative change and a better life for all, for a common effort to build a winning nation.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my government therefore commits itself to working in a close partnership with all our people, inspired by the call----chaka chino ndi chaka chamayankho (a year of breakthroughs and favour). A year that demands of us to draw on the energy and ingenuity of the nation to give birth to something that will surely be new, good and beautiful, and that is a new Malawi.
· A Malawi sustained by a growing economy capable of extending sustainable and equitable benefits to all our people.
· A Malawi that is food secure with a modernised, commercialised and industrialized agriculture where farming is managed as a business. A Malawi that has expanded irrigation agriculture of two growing seasons a year.
· A Malawi generating enough power to support both domestic and industrial needs.
· A Malawi that is a world class destination for tourism with a vibrant culture and thriving art industry.
· A Malawi that has a developed mining industry where its citizens are primary beneficiaries of the resources.
· A Malawi where roads and rail criss-cross the length and breadth of the country;
· Where its airports are a hub for the regional and international transportation networks.
· A Malawi that has a healthy population, well trained and skilled workforce.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, a Malawi that this generation and the generations to come can be proud to call their home.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am saying a better Malawi is possible.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the theme of my address to the august Assembly is: “UNITY OF PURPOSE TOWARDS ECONOMIC RECOVERY”.
As we continue on the path of economic recovery, my Government wishes to underscore the importance of all of us staying the course with the policy reforms. The path we have taken is the right one, and the only one, for our country.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, Sir, we must all work together: the opposition parties; the private sector; our cooperating and development partners; civil society organisations; the faith community and the general public. Unity of purpose must be the modus operandi for our country to realise our destiny.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, as the House is aware, when my government came into power, the country had been facing acute fuel and foreign exchange shortages, reduction in production capacity of industries that led to downsizing and closure of some businesses, and drugs were also in short supply in our hospitals.
Furthermore, our cooperating and development partners had lost trust in us due to poor governance and subsequently deserted us.
That is why, Mr. Speaker, Sir, in order to address the challenges and turn around the economy, my Government launched the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) last year. The ERP has three components:
a) Macro-economic stability
b) Social Protection Programmes
c) Diversifying the economy and identifying new sources of growth
1. Macro-economic stability
For the immediate and short term, some of the reform measures in the ERP include the realignment of the exchange rate to regain macroeconomic balance and stability. This reform led to 49 percent devaluation and floatation of the Malawi Kwacha in order to address the imbalances in the foreign exchange market. Government removed requirements to deposit foreign exchange earnings with the Reserve Bank of Malawi; and also removed restrictions on operations of foreign exchange bureaus. 12
In addition, Government introduced the automatic fuel pricing mechanism in order to reduce risks to the budget whilst maintaining constant supply of fuel. Government also realigned prices of utilities.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi has been adjusting the Bank rate to dampen the depreciation of the currency and the consequent inflation.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government introduced the No Net Domestic Financing (NNDF) of the budget in order to control expenditure overruns and enhance domestic and foreign revenue mobilisation.
As part of the ERP strategy, My Government also instituted several expenditure control measures. I directed the immediate sale of the Presidential Jet, which is about to be sold to a potential bidder. Furthermore, Government 13
reduced the number of people in Presidential entourages and ministerial delegations on both external and local trips, and introduced the one motor vehicle policy for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior government officials which is being implemented.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to report that Malawi Government successfully concluded negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), which triggered the release of 20 million United States Dollars from the IMF and disbursements from donor partners. Government met most of the quantitative targets, including those on Net International Reserves, Net Domestic borrowing and the contracting of non concessional external borrowing.
As you may be aware, Mr. Speaker, Sir, the IMF Board also met in December 2012 and successfully completed the first review of Malawi’s economic performance and approved another 20 million United States Dollars disbursement under the programme signifying its satisfaction and confidence in the reform programme that my Government is implementing.
As a result, during the first half of the 2012/13 financial year, total domestic revenues amounted to K136billion against a target of K133.2billion. This represents an over collection of K2.8billion. This was largely on account of over-performance in tax revenues.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Budget Support receipts in the first half amounted to K54.4billion against a target of K50.6billion, thus the target was surpassed by K3.8 billion. Major Development Partners that disbursed their Budget Support commitments during the first half include the World Bank (K14 billion) and the African Development Bank (K11billion) and the European Union (K17.4billion).
Government has also completed a project concept on the establishment of the Malawi Development Bank.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is exploring the financing mechanism for the Bank. The Bank will assist potential investors and business people in Malawi to access cheaper and long term financing for their businesses.
2. Social Protection
Mr. Speaker, Sir, under the Social Protection component of the ERP, my Government is implementing policies and programmes that are aimed at addressing the negative impact of the reforms. Such programs include the Public Works Programmes, Cash Transfer Programmes, School Feeding and Bursary Programme, Food Aid Programme, among others, which are designed to meet the needs of the vulnerable households.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, from July, 2012, my Government received funding for the Social Cash Transfer Programme amounting to MK23.687Billion (49 million Euros) from the European Union, the Irish Government and UNICEF.
Currently, the programme is targeting 10 percent of the lowest ultra poor and is operational in 15 districts, namely Mchinji, Salima, Mangochi, Machinga, Chitipa, Likoma, Phalombe, Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, Neno, Balaka, Mzimba, Zomba and Mulanje.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government plans to roll out the Social Cash Transfer Programme to all 28 districts by June, 2014, and at full scale implementation, the programme will reach a total of 315,000 household benefitting 1.5 million Malawians at a cost of 11.5 billion Malawi Kwacha per year. The programme will run for 4 years.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the other mitigating programme is the Public Works Programme which is being implemented in all 28 districts. In the 2012/2013 budget, the programme has an allocation of 10.6 billion kwacha of which 80 per cent is for wages and 20 percent for operational costs. 593,750 households have benefited already from the programme during the first cycle which covered September to December 2012. Each person works for 24 days in a cycle and receives K300 per day. The second cycle started in January 2013.
Another programme, Mr. Speaker, Sir, include the Food Aid programme where government is distributing food to about 2 million families that are food insecure.
The Government has also targeted children and school going youth with school feeding programme and bursaries. The programme is bearing fruits as children’s enrolment and attendance in the targeted schools have improved.
Their nutritional status and household resources have also improved.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, under the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction, Government procured and distributed 1,670 metric tons of legume seed to 100,000 farmers aimed at encouraging small scale farmers to grow cash crops.
3. Diversifying the economy and
Identifying non traditional sources of growth
The ERP aims to provide Malawi with quick wins, diversify the structure of our economy and identify key sectors of economic growth. These sectors include Agriculture, Mining, Energy, Tourism, and Infrastructure. In addition, three priority projects were identified for each of the priority sectors.
Mr Speaker, Sir, our country is an agro-based economy. As such, agriculture is bound to give us the quickest wins for our economy to turn around.
In agriculture, our strategy is to modernise and industrialize the sector to move from subsistence farming to managing farming as a business.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government has prioritised the following programmes in the agriculture sector:
i) Diversification of cash crops
Diversification of cash crops which includes: rice, cassava and legumes such as groundnuts, soya, sugar beans, pigeon peas and sunflower.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, in line with the diversification programme, Government is implementing Anchor Farm Models through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. In such an arrangement, seed companies provide seeds to farming families and also provide market for the produce. For example, Government is working with the Clinton Development Initiative at Rusa Farm in Mchinji where the organisation is also providing training support to farming families.
Government also acquired Lipinda Farm in Mangochi where 200 hectares of land has been ploughed and ridged for legumes and maize farming. Government further secured Rusa Farm in Mchinji. A total of 7,000 families are going to benefit from the Anchor Farm Model.
ii) Livestock Development
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is committed to developing livestock industry in this country. In this regard, a number of projects have been initiated to develop the sector, among them are:
a) A Cow a Family Project
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government has established ‘one cow a family’ project aimed at increasing stock of both meat and milk cows across the country to poor families. This project is aimed at helping poor families to increase their nutritional intake and also enhance their incomes. A cow is given to a family and that family is required to pass on the first female calf to the next beneficiary.
Government has procured 50 pure breed dairy cows which will be distributed to the Project in Lilongwe as a start up. 30 cows are expected to arrive in the country from South Africa this month. The Project with support from Heifer International and Department of Animal Health has already mobilized a dairy bulking group at Nathenje while the one for Kasiya is underway.
b) Small stock production
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government has procured and distributed 8,000 small stocks of goats and sheep to various poor farming families. Government, through the Presidential Initiative on Hunger and Poverty Reduction is facilitating the procurement of goats and sheep for Lipinda and Rusa Impact Areas, and will provide training to farmers in goat and sheep management.
c) Malawi Beef Value Chain Project (Nyika Beef)
The initiative in Partnership with Heifer International, Nyama World and Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development are in the process of identifying and selecting Brahman cattle from government farms and South Africa. The project will develop Bolero Feed Lot and sensitization on the Beef Cattle Value Chain Project to smallholder animal farming families has started.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have directed that from February this year, Malawi will implement Expanded Irrigation Programme. In this respect, the country will have two cropping seasons a year.
During the period under review, Government lined up several programmes and projects for implementation to promote irrigation farming. Out of the 2,560 hectares that were targeted, 950 hectares of land is currently under irrigation farming.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, through irrigation, our country has the potential to increase its crop production for the domestic and international markets. I am pleased to report to this august House that construction of irrigation schemes at Lweya and Nkopola is underway. Once completed, these schemes will grow high value crops as soon as the rainy season is over.
Currently, 530 hectares out of the 6,293 hectares of Chikwawa Green Belt Irrigation Scheme in Salima have been developed. Part of the land that was cleared has been used to plant soya beans, benefitting 346 farming families.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, other programmes being implemented include:
· Innovation and Technology where we are introducing good quality seeds, modernised farming systems that take into account conservation agriculture.
· Commercialisation of the agricultural sector through the introduction of Anchor Farms and linking them to out grower schemes with the smallholder farming families.
· Guaranteed price and secure markets through contract farming. We have secured markets for some of our produce in Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
· Strengthening and reorganisation of farmer clubs and co-operatives. I am pleased to report that the Kenyan Government has offered to support in mobilising and building capacity of our cooperative movement.
· Strategic reserves that can create economic value to overcome post-harvest loss through commodity exchange initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, The Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) for the 2012/2013 cropping season is on course. 154,440 metric tonnes of fertiliser were distributed benefiting 1,544,400 smallholder farmers. This year, FISP was scaled up and the total number of beneficiaries went up by 144,000.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government introduced the Integrated Production System (IPS) to improve efficiency in tobacco production and marketing through directly linking farmers to markets under contractual agreements. Further, Government intensified the registration of tobacco growers using biometric system. It is, therefore, expected that over 200 million kilograms of tobacco will be produced this year.
Government also added 200,000 hectares of land for cotton growing this year and the expected cotton production is 150,000 metric tons.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, proper and economic utilisation of our land resources is vital for the overall socio-economic development of the country. This is why Government will be tabling before this House a Land Bill intended to give a legal basis to the Land Policy. The new regulatory framework will improve land management by promoting access, transparency and land tenure security.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, energy remains an important engine for economic growth in this country. As such, Government is implementing programmes that seek to improve energy generation, transmission and distribution to meet national demand.
Interventions that Government is implementing to address energy gaps include:-
a) installation of equipment at Kapichila II, which will add 64 Megawatts to the national grid;
b) Malawi and Mozambique interconnector agreement is scheduled for signing this month in Tete Mozambique;
c) Malawi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TBEA of China to upgrade the eastern line from Nkula to Bwengu via Salima and Nkhota-kota. The feasibility study has been finalised and project works are expected later this year, and
d) Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to report that under Malawi Rural Electrification Project phase 6 (MAREP 6), Government electrified 54 trading centers, representing two trading centers per district. Under the MAREP phase 7, my Government has expanded the coverage to three trading centers per district, giving a total of 81 trading centers. This year, we are committed to electrifying 27 trading centers, that is, one center per district.
e) Government continues with the distribution of over 1 million energy Saver bulbs, saving 42 Megawatts in the grid.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Tourism is another sector that has the potential to generate ‘quick wins’ for the recovery process of this country. To realise the desired gains from the sector, Government is pursuing a variety of programmes:
Government is offering Concessions for Liwonde and Kasungu National Parks and some islands on Lake Malawi; and re-stocking of animals in national parks.
ii) Intensify Tourism Marketing and Promotion
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, it is gratifying to learn that international media houses such as the BBC, CNN and National Geographic Channel have continued to feature and herald Malawi as a ‘must-see’ tourist destination in the world. In this regard, Government has intensified aggressive marketing strategies and campaigns targeting countries like the UK, Germany, China, Netherlands and South Africa, among others, with the aim of increasing the number of international tourists coming into the country.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, in order to promote tourism and foreign investment into Malawi, Government will rationalise the visa regime so that bona fide tourists are able to visit the country without much difficulties. Government is in the process of implementing an open sky policy to allow more and competitive flights in and out of Malawi.
iii) Promotion of Conference Tourism
Government is also focusing on promotion of conference tourism. In this regard, my Government is creating a conducive environment to turn Malawi into a conference tourism destination. To realise this, an operator to manage the Bingu Conference Centre, the President Hotel and the Presidential Village is being engaged. Government also intends to upgrade the Bingu Conference Centre and Presidents Hotel into an integrated world class tourism destination.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is inviting serious investors to develop Cape McClear, Salima and Likoma Island Tourist Centres on Lake Malawi and promote water sport and marina on the lake of stars.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, mining is one of the five priority sectors of the ERP because of its potential to generate foreign exchange. It is for this reason that I have created a full Ministry of Mining. As one of my Government’s priority sector, mining was being overshadowed by other equally important sectors namely energy and environmental affairs. Mr. Speaker, Sir, this split will make the Ministry of Mining more visible, focused and effective.
The Ministry of Mining has prioritised the following projects:
i) Establishment of legal and institutional framework
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government is committed to promotion of a conducive, transparent and accountable mining regime in this country. In this regard, Government is reviewing Mines and Minerals Act, Petroleum Policy and Petroleum Act. My Government will ensure that the mineral resources benefit Malawians.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government launched the Mining Growth and Governance Support Project on 22nd January, 2013, which is being funded by the French Government, World Bank and the European Union. The project will facilitate the development of infrastructure for generation and distribution of reliable geological information and the development of policy instruments to steer good governance and growth of the mining sector.
ii) Enhancement of mining and oil exploration activities
In the past few months, the mining sector continued to conduct bankable feasibility studies and exploration over Kanyika Niobium deposits in Mzimba, and rare earth minerals and bauxite in Phalombe and Mulanje, respectively.
iii) Promotion of local and foreign investors in the mining industry
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government has put in place mechanisms to promote participation of local and foreign investors in the mining industry as a means of generating income and creating employment for poverty reduction. My Government is assisting small scale miners by mobilising mining artisans into cooperatives and building their capacity in mining so that they add value to their mineral products.
g) Infrastructure Development
Mr. Speaker, Sir, a reliable and modern transport infrastructure and network is crucial for any country’s socio-economic growth and development. Several programmes are being implemented in the sector. For instance, Government is implementing the Road Sector Programme through which a number of roads have either been completed or are under construction.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am pleased to report that contractors are now back on site on three roads that had stalled, namely, the Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale road, Mangochi-Naminga road and the Thyolo-Thekerani road.
Further, 806 kilometres of unpaved roads have been graded and some rural and peri-urban roads have been hand shaped under Public Works Programme. The Karonga-Chitipa road and Ekwendeni-Ezondweni road were completed and commissioned.
There are also plans to upgrade to bitumen standard several roads namely:- Lirangwe-Machinga road, Mangochi-Malindi-Makanjira road, Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza road, Linthipe-Lobi-Mitundu road, Rumphi-Nyika-Chitipa road, and Lilongwe Old Airport-Kasiya-Santhe road.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the construction of the Lilongwe City West By-pass road was commissioned by His Excellency Mr. Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya in January 2013 and the road is now under construction.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, rail transport also registered key achievements in the first half of the 2012/2013 fiscal year. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Chinese Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to rehabilitate and upgrade the Beira/Sena railway line and the Nacala Corridor.
Vale Limited started construction of a 138 kilometres railway line from Kachaso in Chikhwawa to Nkaya in Balaka that will join the Nacala Corridor. Central East African Railway (CEAR) also embarked on a rehabilitation programme for the rail line from Limbe to Nayuchi at a total estimated cost of 3 million United States Dollars. The railway line between Lilongwe and Balaka is also being rehabilitated.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, it is pleasing to note that passenger services between Limbe and Makhanga as well as between Limbe and Nayuchi resumed in July, 2012, and now operate on weekly basis and patronage has been overwhelming.
In order to improve efficiency of our national flag carrier Air Malawi, Government liquidated the company and formed a new holding company called Air Malawi (2012) Limited. The process of identifying a strategic partner is underway where out of the seven companies which were initially shortlisted three have made the final list.
In a related development, Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government has signed Memorandum of Understanding with CHEC to upgrade Kamuzu International Airport and build a new Airport in the resort town of Mangochi. Government has also engaged Shanghai Construction Company Ltd to build a new airport at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre.
h) Industry, Trade and Private Sector Development
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me now turn to industry, trade and private sector development. I am aware that the industry and commerce sailed through a very depressing and turbulent period over the recent past. Therefore, I would like to thank the business community for their perseverance and patience. They have endured a very hard and humiliating environment with the past administration. Most of the investors were denied visa, work permits and investment certificates for no apparent reasons.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government has identified private sector as the engine of growth. In this regard, my Government is implementing the following programmes to create a conducive environment for business:
i) Creating a Pro-Business Environment
Mr. Speaker, Sir, since I took over as President of this country, five Bills aimed at simplifying the laws in starting business and protecting investors have been passed. For Example Business Licensing Act, Business Registration Act and Companies Act (Amendment) and Investment and Export Promotion Act.
I have directed that we must improve Malawi’s ranking from the current 157 to among the top 100 of the World Bank Doing Business Index by December, 2013.
I, therefore, call upon the Honourable Members to expeditiously process the Bills that will be tabled before this august House. Some of the bills are: Companies Bill, Economic Processing Zone (EPZ) Bill, Personal Property Security Bill and Insolvency Bill.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is in the process of establishing a National Single Window in the country in order to reduce the time and cost of processing trade documentation for importing and exporting.
ii) Industrialisation and Export Development
Mr. Speaker Sir, I launched the National Export Strategy on 14th December, 2012, as a critical component of the ERP with the goal of doubling exports in the next five years.
My Government is fast tracking the reforms for the recovery of our economy. These reforms are intended to enhance exports, create a pro-trade and investment regulatory and institutional framework to make it cheaper, easier and faster to do business in Malawi.
These reforms are premised on two categories at the private sector level;
· Those engaged in light manufacturing for import substitution and
· Those in service industry such as information communication technology, finance, electricity, real estate, hospitality, transport, trading and distribution.
I would, therefore, encourage the private sector to seize the opportunities in investment and trade that Government is creating.
iii) Empowerment through Development of
Cooperatives and SME
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Small Medium Enterprises and Cooperatives play an important role in the economy through generation of employment, wealth creation and poverty reduction. My Government has initiated interventions that will deepen entrepreneurship, improve access to finance, enhance access to technology and increase access to markets. I am pleased to note that the major commercial banks have started to assist the SME sector through dedicated financial products.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the above narration clearly demonstrates the vision, the direction, programming and progress made under the ERP. I am glad to acknowledge many voices from the general public, the business community, the academia, the international community and many other stakeholders that the ERP is bearing fruits.
ACHIEVEMENTS FOR OTHER SECTORS IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2012/2013
Allow me, Mr. Speaker, Sir, to also highlight some achievements that the other sectors have registered in the first half of the 2012/2013 financial year.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government continued to enhance cordial bilateral, regional and international cooperation for the benefit of Malawians. This was evidenced by the numerous high profile State Visits that took place in Malawi during the period under review including visits by His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; His Excellency Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi, President of Benin and outgoing Chairperson of the African Union; and His Excellency Mr. Mwai Kibaki, President of the Republic of Kenya.
During the visits, a number of agreements and commitments were reached and these include:
· Holding of The Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) with Nigeria and Kenya. Malawi will reopen its embassy in Nairobi and the Kenyan Government will open a mission in Lilongwe. The Nigerian Government has already opened a mission in Lilongwe whereas the Malawi Government has appointed a Consular Office in Lagos; and we hope to open an embassy in due course.
· My Government has also reached an understanding to establish Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) with the following countries: Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and South Korea.
The Government of South Korea has indicated to establish an office in Malawi for the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Other important VVIPs that visited Malawi include, Ms. Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State of the United States of America; Ms. Christine Largade, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund; Mrs. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Ms. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chairperson of Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, turning to regional cooperation, Malawi was elected the Vice-Chairperson of SADC at the 32nd Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government that took place in Maputo, Mozambique, in August, 2012. 44
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, with regard to the dispute on the Lake Malawi boundary between the Republic of Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, I wish to report that the two Governments agreed to amicably resolve the issue through peaceful and diplomatic means. On the 31st January 2013, Malawi submitted its Opening Statement which articulates our position to the Africa Forum for Former Heads of State and Government from the Southern African Development Community Region which has been invited to mediate on the dispute. This submission avows our support of the Forum and the mediation role that the Forum has taken on and our respect for the experience and wisdom of the members of the Forum: President Joaquim Chissano, President Quett Masire, President Kenneth Kaunda and President Thabo Mbeki.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Let me inform the Honourable House that if a mutually acceptable solution cannot be reached through the efforts of the Forum the matter must go, as Malawi and Tanzania have already agreed, to the International Court of Justice. A solution respectful of the rule of law is the only responsible way forward.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, due to the trust we have cultivated with our cooperating and developing partners, donors who stopped assisting Malawi had resumed their support to Malawi. Allow me to report that Malawi government and the British Government have now restored their full diplomatic ties.
Water Development, Irrigation and the Greenbelt Initiative
Mr. Speaker, Sir, water development remains an important sector in the socio-economic development of our country. The sector has direct linkages with key sectors of the ERP, including energy, mining, industrial development and agriculture through irrigation. In this respect, the sector is vital in the realization of the country’s economic recovery.
With regard to water resources management and development, one of the key programmes that Government is implementing is the Songwe River Basin Development Project. Preparatory phase of the project such as signing of the Memorandum of Understanding was completed. Under this project, multipurpose dams along the Songwe River will be constructed for irrigation, fisheries, and hydropower as well as for tourism.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, in order to ease the water supply challenges faced by our people in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, Government identified new water sources at Diamphwe in Dedza for Lilongwe city and on the upstream of the Walkers Ferry along the Shire River for Blantyre city. In both projects, feasibility studies are completed.
Government is now working on detailed designs of the dams and associated works.
Climate change, natural resources and environmental management
Mr. Speaker, Sir, concerning climate change, natural resources and environmental management, let me point out that Government is committed to integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation into development planning. To show this commitment, I created a new Ministry solely responsible for climate change and environment management. In addition, Government developed Environment and Climate Change Communication Strategy. Climate change policy will soon be developed to guide stakeholders in adaptation and mitigation measures and climate change impacts in the country.
As regards, forestry, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am glad to report to this honourable House that 60 million tree seedlings will be planted by the end of this year’s tree planting season.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, education continues to be an important sector in the Government’s development agenda. Government is therefore, undertaking a number of activities to promote education in the country.
I am, therefore, pleased to report that Government is finalising the procurement of teaching and learning materials for basic and secondary education amounting to K10.89 billion. Mr. Speaker, Sir, you may note that teaching and learning materials have not been bought by Government for the last four years due to financial and technical constraints.
Furthermore, Government commenced the recruitment of 7,908 primary school teachers, 932 secondary school Grade T1 and 403 Grade TJ teachers.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, I have also directed that, with immediate effect, 11,504 primary school teachers and 1,668 secondary school teachers must be promoted, forthwith. I have further directed that from this year, teachers at primary and secondary school levels will be given performance-related awards in order to motivate them to aim high in their performance of their work.
In order to increase the number of girls accessing education, Government continued to construct and expand girls boarding facilities in secondary schools; provide and increase the number of toilet facilities for girls in primary schools. In addition, Government scaled up the provision of cash transfers and bursaries to girls in selected areas especially at senior primary school and secondary school levels.
In this financial year, Government has continued to intensify its efforts in promoting education of the girl child to tertiary education level by, among other things, giving out scholarships for university education to girls who excel in their Malawi Certificate of Secondary Education exams.
I am happy that the private sector, Zodiak Broadcasting Station in particular, is associated with this noble programme of promoting the girl child.
Nutrition, HIV and AIDS management
Mr. Speaker, Sir, during the first half of 2012/2013 fiscal year, Government continued to fight acute malnutrition through implementation of nutrition programmes such as Community Therapeutic Care Services.
With regard to HIV and AIDS, Government continued the implementation of HIV and AIDS interventions including work place programmes. Government also rolled out new regime for ART which has fewer side effects to HIV positive pregnant women and children.
My Government will intensify the HIV and AIDS service delivery and also explore alternatives for the long term financing for HIV and AIDS, bearing in mind the global financial crisis.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the health sector is another very critical sector in the development of our country.
In this regard, I would like to report that construction of Nkhata bay Hospital and a feasibility study for Phalombe Hospital are underway. Furthermore, Government also procured 28 ambulances for all District Health Offices in the country.
Let me assure this august House that my Government will do everything possible to address the challenges that are facing the sector within the Health Package.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, within the health sector, I now turn to maternal health and safe motherhood. Providing quality maternal and neonatal health care services in the country to completely end maternal and neonatal deaths is of paramount importance in my Government’s development agenda.
This is why I established the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood which is championing our efforts to fight maternal mortality. Since its establishment, the Initiative has intensified community mobilisation and training of chiefs, construction of Maternity Waiting Homes and training of community midwives.
The first Maternity Waiting Home under this initiative was constructed and commissioned on 15th November, 2012 at Mulanje District Hospital, courtesy of Standard Bank. Other Maternity Waiting Homes are at various stages of construction in Dowa, Balaka, Karonga, Mchinji, Lilongwe, 53
Zomba, Mangochi and Mzimba. Four of these are due for completion and handover by the end of this month.
I am pleased to inform this House that the African Union has published a report where Malawi has moved from 675 to 460 deaths per 100,000 births. This is a clear demonstration of my Government’s commitment to improving the lives of women and children.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me, therefore, applaud the growing interest and continued support from the corporate world and partners locally and globally on this Initiative.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to inform the House that the shortages of drugs that my Government found continues to bother us. However, I am pleased to report that for the first time in the history of this country has the Head of State had discussions with the medical doctors in this country to discuss challenges and possible solutions to drug shortages in our hospitals. During my meeting with the medical doctors, we identified a number of solutions to overcome drug shortages including the fight against corruption in our hospitals.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, some of the proposals from the medical doctors include:
· Government need to fully decentralise the referral and district hospitals
· Increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Health
· Government should purchase drugs direct from manufacturers without involving vendors and branding the drugs as Government Property.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I want to inform the House that the donor community has pledged to help addressing the problem of drug shortage with various medical support.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me assure this House and all Malawians that this Government is committed to addressing the drug shortage once and for all.
Gender and women empowerment
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government is committed to gender and women empowerment and upholding of women’s rights as a prerequisite to sustained economic growth and poverty eradication. Government is also committed to creating a favourable environment in which the protection of women is guaranteed and their participation in decision making processes is assured.
It is against this background that, to date, I have promoted almost 100 women to decision making positions. This include 9 ministers and deputy ministers; 18 principal secretaries and other heads of government departments and agencies; two deputy Reserve Bank Governors; as well as our Solicitor General, among others.
Furthermore, on 10th July, 2012, I launched the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Programme which is funded by the European Union to the tune of 5.847 billion kwacha. My Government has also enhanced programmes such as the Civil Servants Social and Economic Empowerment Network in which 58 business groups have been formed out of which 17 have already received loans amounting to K32.8 million.
Mr Speaker, Sir, my Government respects human rights and the rule of law as a prerequisite for development. Government shall continue to respect the independence of Governance institutions such as the Law Commission, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman, Malawi Electoral Commission, among others.
Fight Against Corruption
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government will continue to uphold zero tolerance on corruption. No stone shall remain unturned and my administration will not cover anyone irrespective of the status that person has in the society.
For this reason, Government is tirelessly working with the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to deal with the backlog of investigations and cases that are not yet concluded. Government has also intensified its support to ACB in terms of law enforcement and corruption prevention through civil education across the country.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, My Government fully appreciates the important role that the media plays in the development of this country. The media has been instrumental in the fight against corruption, deepening our democratic process and providing a platform for dialogue. I am very pleased to note that according to the 2013 World Press Index released by the Reporters without Borders, Malawi has climbed from 146 last year to position 75 this year in media freedom. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the House may wish to know that Malawi is among the countries that have made the biggest leap in the index. As a nation we ought to celebrate such an achievement.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, a Bill on tripartite elections was passed in this august House in the last sitting of Parliament to enable Malawi to hold Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections in May, 2014. To facilitate the elections, my Government will mobilise adequate resources for the holding of the elections. I, therefore, call upon our cooperating and development partners to render technical and financial support to this noble cause.
National Security Sector
Mr. Speaker, Sir, concerning national security, let me reiterate that Government is very committed to ensuring that the country continues to be peaceful and secure at all times.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, a peaceful environment creates a very conducive atmosphere for the socio-economic development of any country. In this regard, in the first half of the 2012/2013 fiscal year, Government’s focus in the security sector has been to reduce crime, review some legislative operating framework, improve migration management, improve custody of suspects and rehabilitation of offenders, and also ensure efficient and effective management of security institutions.
On this note, I wish to sincerely thank all Malawians for displaying maturity in the manner they conducted themselves during the January 17th demonstrations 60
organized by Consumers’ Association of Malawi. Mr. Speaker, Sir, 17th January, 2013 marked yet another day in the history of this country as far as democracy is concerned and this was possible because my Government is a listening Government that respects freedom of association.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government intensified the use of lawful means to contain illegal immigrants trekking from the ‘Horn of Africa’ by, among others, engaging traditional leaders and their subjects against harbouring and aiding illegal entry.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, under this sector, a number of development projects are underway in security establishments, including the rehabilitation of Police Staff houses and offices.
With regard to peace support operations, I wish to report, Mr. Speaker, Sir, that our Defence Force successfully completed rotation of the fourth contingent of peace keeping troops to Ivory Coast in January, 2013. I am pleased to inform this august House that the Malawi Defence Force has consistently been commended by the international community for its professionalism when participating in peace keeping missions.
At this juncture, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would like to commend our men and women in uniform for doing us proud by maintaining high discipline and discharging their duties professionally, even in extremely difficult and high risk circumstances.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government recognises that an efficient and motivated public service is paramount in the delivery of public service. In this regard, Government has instituted a number of structural measures, including:-
(i) Established a Projects and Programmes Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit in my office. This department has an oversight function of tracking policies, projects and programmes that Government is implementing. The department will report directly to my office to ensure coordinated and efficient implementation of deliverables;
(ii) Introduced Ministerial delivery meetings for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure timely implementation of programmes. The meetings are chaired by myself and the Minister is required to make a presentation of his/her ministry’s performance. The meetings focus mainly on progress related to annual outputs and targets being implemented and achievements made; and
(iii) launched Organisational Performance Assessment System (OPAs) for the public service, including ministries and departments, agencies and district councils. The objective of the assessment is to institutionalize monitoring of organizational performance of public institutions in order to ensure effective and efficient public service delivery in line with the national development agenda. This will also enhance corporate performance and accountability.
The best performing public institutions will be rewarded and non performers will be reprimanded.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, as I conclude, allow me to assure this august House and Malawians that our country is posed for transformation. We have passed the dangerous zone and we are just about to realise our destiny. In this regard, the choices we make today are critical in determining the future we desire to have.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members, my Government has laid the foundation for recovery and growth. It is therefore incumbent upon all of us to build on this solid foundation. I want to call upon all our people: men and women, young and old; rich and poor to see what I see because I am seeing prosperity upon our land.
Our country has generated goodwill both at home and abroad. The news from the warm heart of Africa is sweet again. There is hope for our people. There is hope for our country.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, it demands of us to make a better Malawi possible. A Malawi that becomes the hope of our people and the continent. A Malawi that is a centre of excellence for doing business. A Malawi that is efficient and skilful. Yes, a healthy Malawi.
To our cooperating and development partners, I want to say: thank you for the support, advice and encouragement that you render to mother Malawi.
Let me sincerely thank you, Mr. Speaker, Sir, and all Honourable Members for the support you have continued to render to my administration. Furthermore, I wish to thank Malawians for their perseverance and the support they have accorded me and my Government as we walk on the path to recovery.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, it is now my singular honour to declare the 44th Session of Parliament, officially open.
May the Almighty God bless us all.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Sir.