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Malawi’s Tonse Alliance government: Illusions in the manifesto, reality in the budget

Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu presenting national budget in parliament

BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—On Friday 11th September 2020 Finance Minister Felix Mlusu presented a K2.2 trillion maiden substantive budget for the Tonse Alliance administration, which to a large extent ignored many of the campaign promises of the dual President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima.

While Dr. Goodall Gondwe’s budget during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime was always specific, Mlusu’s budget has left people with speculations. However, though ambitious to some extent, there is much reality in the budget as compared to their manifesto which is full of illusions.

Campaign promises that took Chakwera to the highest office include universal subsidy farm inputs, 1 million jobs, free water and electricity connections, reducing passport fee to K14 000 and K100 000 tax free band for salaried employees.

But the budget presented on Friday has made it clear that Chakwera and Chilima were living in Mars during the campaign period as only K100 000 tax free band has been fulfilled. Ironically, the 2020/2021 national budget has been developed under the theme “Living the Promise”.

As promised by thet Tonse Alliance, Mlusu announced an increase of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) zero bracket from K45 000 per month to K100, 000 per month.

He also announced an increase of salaries for civil servants though not specific as it has always been the case with the previous governments.

“Wages and salaries for 2020/2021 financial year are projected at K523.7 billion which is 7.3 percent of GDP representing a 13.5 percent increase from last year’s preliminary outcome. The increase in wages and salaries is on account of K42.7 billion for general salary increment; K14.3 billion for

employer contribution to the Contributory Pension Scheme; K8.1 billion for annual wage creep; and K8.0 billion for recruitment of health personnel,” reads the budget.

On universal subsidy, the Tonse Alliance administration has not lived up to its promise as what is in the budget is similar to the form ruling Democratic Progressive Party policy, only that the number of beneficiaries has increased.

“Madam Speaker, according to the census there are 4.2 million farm families. In the 2020/2021 financial year, Government will implement the Affordable Inputs Program where all the 4.2 million farm families will be provided with cheap farm inputs. This, Madam Speaker, is not far from being a universal subsidy program assuming an average family size of

four people, which gives approximately 16.8 million people that will be covered under this program out of the 17.6 million people in Malawi. In this regard, Madam Speaker, there is no sampling of farm families to benefit from this program as every smallholder farmer is covered,” he announced.

As people were waiting to hear on how I million jobs will be created, Mlusu just expressed commitment that Chakwera will ably implement the promise without allocating funds for the dream.

“Madam Speaker, the Tonse alliance Government is committed to create a million jobs within one year of office and that job creation will continue to be the main focus going forward. In this regard, Madam Speaker, Government has developed a road map with key activities that will be undertaken to facilitate the translation of this agenda into action,” said Mlusu.

He added that the job creation agenda will be buoyed by a number of Government initiatives that have already been initiated.

The initiatives include establishment of modern and fully equipped job centres which will first be established in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.

According to Mlusu, the Job centres will assist job seekers to access employment information from employers and vice versa. These job centres will also be connected to Government systems that will enable reporting of number of people employed in real time.

On free water and electricity connections, Mlusu government has embarked on a reform program of the concerned utility companies.

“It is upon completion of these reform programs when Government shall ably implement these promises,” he said.

Reacting, Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has described the Tonse Alliance’s first national budget as betrayal to the voters who ushered them into power.

DPP spokesperson of Finance in Parliament Joseph Mwanamvekha  told journalists that several campaign promises have been ignored, saying the budget has failed to, among other things, roll out implementation of the pledged universal fertiliser subsidy, reducing fees for passports, duty free weeks, and zero-connection fees for electricity and water.

The former finance minister  argued that the budget has instead copied some of the ideas and programmes that his party had introduced and was implementing.

“I have three descriptions for the budget. The first is that Malawians have been cheated. It’s more consumptive than developmental in nature. It’s also a copycat because most of the parts of the budget are what the DPP has done,” he said as quoted in The Nation.

Mwanamvekha further said most Malawians voted for Tonse Alliance because of the promises they made.

“Yet there is no universal subsidy programme but targeted just like we did under DPP. They promised reduction in passports fees, no connection fee. Where are they?” he queried.

Mwanamvekha further argued that every Malawian, including those living in urban areas, should be a beneficiary if the new subsidy initiative is going to be considered universal as the Tonse government pledged in its manifesto. 

“Additionally, out of K2.1 trillion of total expenditure, only K511 billion is for development. A very small portion of the budget,” he said.

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