Saturday, July 23, 2016

Promoting Poetry as a Communal Feeling

Poetry comes in many forms and tongues, but one thing brings lovers of the genre’s diverse audiences together, namely the communion of feeling. However, RICHARD CHIROMBO was the witness to an embarrassing episode when some, apparently impatient, less accommodating audience members at the land of Poets Festival shouted a well-meaning foreign poet down, only to eat their own words because poetry is one genre that should not be diluted in the liquid of translation

The man in front of the stage, Germany-born poet Richard Schuster, stood still, tactfully escaping the violence unleashed by slashing tongues by staring, long and hard, at the white piece of paper tightly held in his stable hands.
Never, during those four embarrassing minutes when some isolated audience members shouted poetry down, did he look at the crowd. The piece of paper passionately held in both hands was, surely, more patient than the unreasonable— in the context of poetry—audience members who preferred the familiar to the unfamiliar.
SCHUSTER: Here [in Malawi], people are loud
On that point, Schuster scored two obvious points: One, that he is a hardened poet, and; two, that he is a written-word poet.
Of course, it was rather apparent that some members in the audience felt that the four-minute poetry piece he recited in German did not fill an urgent need— namely, the isolated audience members’ call to partake in vernacular language poetry, or for him to quickly leave the stage.
Now, if ignorance about the nature of poetry creates discord that is uncomfortable in the best of circumstances, it was catastrophic in this moment of audience madness.
One could have hoped that the alien aspect of shouting a visiting poet down would be tempered with a little bit of the warm-heartedness that Malawians are known for. Not this Sunday afternoon, though, as— instead of at least enduring the lashes of a foreign language— they, with their slashing tongues, howled at the top of their voices.
They were outright rude;that ‘thick’, dark temperament that clings to the ceiling of good-will and gives humanity a bad name.
But, somehow, a moment of sanity from the poet on stage— Schuster—rescued the situation and spared ‘genuine’ poetry lovers the embarrassment of seeing their beloved genre being spoiled by the unappreciative element of impatience.
It was a moment— somewhere between 03: 45 pm and 3: 50 pm—very rich in irony because,while some audience members, clearly unaware that language is only one of the vehicles poetry uses to create a sense of understanding, wanted him to shrink to half his size, the pint-sized Schuster was not one to back down easily.
Instead, that moment of madness seemed to make him get more focused than before; even louder than ever. And the piercing shrieks, though they continued to rain down, came to naught.

Package of ironies
Ironically, this was supposed to be a moment of celebrating diversity through poetry; a moment, also ironically, of honouring one of the greatest vernacular poets in the country— Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga.
Ironically, Malunga did not comment on the incident, which unfolded in front of him as he waited to receive his award, but was surely shaken to the core; taken unawares by the callousness of some audience members who demanded that the German’s poet’s pieces be translated into Chichewa or English.
Ironically, too, it was the man who presented a token of K60, 000 to Malunga, namely Malinda Chinyama, who started it all, when, while seated in the second line of concrete seats, right behind me, stood up and, while pointing at the poet and gesturing that he could not understand any German word, shouted:
“We cannot get anything. Someone should be translating. No! No! No! Why recite poetry in German when you know that no one will get what you are saying? This is what is killing poetry in this country!”
Ironically, I threw off the ‘costume’ of journalism and was the first to tell Chinyama to “please get the feeling” he poet wants you to get.
Ironically, Chinyama retorted back, as well-travelled poet Babangoni watched: [Pointing at me] “It is people like you who are responsible for the downfall of poetry in this country. You see nothing wrong when foreign poets come here and selfishly recite in their mother tongue. You accept it when people come from a far and recite poetry in German and other languages— languages you cannot understand. It is the docility you show that encourages these people to recite in foreign languages, yet they know that we will not understand any of the words they pronounce. No. We cannot accept this. That man needs a translator or he should recite in a language we understand. Period!”
Ironically, Babangoni— himself a well-travelled poet who has been to Germany— came to placate Chinyama. Babangoni found himself in an ironic situation where he could not reason with a man who, in his reasonableness, had decided to present a token of appreciation to Malunga, for service to humanity through, mostly, vernacularlines and stanzas that Schuster cannot understand.
Ironically, Schuster had politely reasoned with the audience— in the manner of a prophet who has a sense of what may come, and the patience to see what was foreseen actually unfold before his eyes— that he would recite in German, and that “I hope you will get the feeling”.
Ironically, the issue of interpreting poems recited in foreign language resurrected when Land of Poets Festival organising committee chairperson, Hoffman Aipira, invited Malunga and, by extension the presenter of the K60, 000 monetary token Chinyama, to the stage.
Ironically, the issue resurfaced when Aipira emphasised the need to honour the country’s greats while they are alive. But, against hopes that the issue of interpreting poems recited in foreign language had died down the moment Schuster left the stage, from nowhere Chinyama was at it again— this time, in front of the audience.
Ironically, Malunga was standing close by, waiting to receive his ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ when Chinyama-the-well-wisher said: “Allow me to say just a word. I was arguing with a certain journalist there that what that poet did, by reciting in a language we do not understand, is not acceptable. We should not condone that sort of behaviour.
“It does not make sense for someone to recite a poem in a foreign language. I did not get anything when he [Schuster] was reciting. We need to have interpreters. It does not make sense that someone can recite in a language nobody understands. You must think of introducing interpreters,” said Chinyama.
CHINYAMA: Foreign poets should have interpreters
Ironically, like Schuster’s German poem, Chinyama overemphasized his point for some time, taking up a minute or so.
Ironically, other audience members were apparently fed up with what he was saying.
Ironically, like he did when Schuster was reciting his poem in the German language, members of the audience shouted him down.
Ironically, unlike the German poet who did not back down but continued reciting, Chinyama bowed down to the audience’s pressure and went straight to the business of the day: presenting a token of K60, 000 to Malunga.
Ironically, Malunga, who spoke immediately after accepting the award, did not touch the touchy issue of hiring the services of interpreters during poetry performances. He did not want to dignify trivia with his authoritative voice.
Ironically, it is Schuster who was frank enough to discuss the issue in an interview later.

Poetry as a feeling
Schuster said his quick take on the audience is that the Malawian audience is different from the German audience he is accustomed to.
“What I make of this foreign audience is that, here [in Malawi], people are very loud. It provides good feedback, though. So, I value the feedback I got so much. It’s like, when you perform before a foreign audience, sometimes you do not know what to expect,” said Schuster.
However, Schuster disagreed with those who are advancing the idea that interpreters should be engaged whenever a poet is reciting in their mother tongue— which happens to be someone else’s foreign language, by the way.
He regards poetry as a human need— like food, like water, like shelter, like clothes, like love, or something like these.
“Humans need poetry. Poetry is a feeling [and not a foreign language]; from the inner to the people,” observed Schuster, who is in the country for 10 days.
Schuster might be speaking from experience. He once tried his hand at music, and was, for close to five years, a member of the German band, Eli Eight.
He quit to concentratehis energies on generating the feeling called poetry.

Understanding poetry

While Schuster played down the incident with some members of the audience at the Land of Poets Festival, it was clear that this was on the surface.
Deep down, it was clear, he was still reluctant to play very deeply within the dream-space of a demand that was so strange it was outrageous. In fact, it’s a culture that does not befit poetry.
When he said “poetry is a feeling”, he did not mean it to be a reprimand but an indulgent complaint. The very cultural exchange purpose that propelled him to come to Malawi was being put to the test.
More so because words from a poet’s mouth are primarily an affair of the heart other than the ear; so that, in cases where a foreign poet has travelled all the way to be with you, inflection of voice, facial expression, gesture, among others, become the folk of delivering the hard part of the poem to the mouth-of-the-heart.
No wonder, poet Babangoni, in his traditional coffee-coloured attire, looked on as the events unfolded— without showing any sense of amused benevolence. But the dispassionate audience can be excused for being puzzled by the paradoxical meaning of poetry, as a universal feeling, when an incomprehensible language is used to convey that feeling.
Next time, though, it would be rewarding to focus on the beauty of poetry other than the validity of the language used.
More so when chairperson of the Land of Poets organising committee, Hoffman Aipira, hinted that a number of foreign poets could grace the stage next year.
“This year’s event was better organised and more successful than last year’s, which we held on Independence Day. But, in terms of foreign poets, we did not have. We hope to have a number of them next year,” said Aipira.
While Sunday’s events are gone and buried under the rubble of history, it cannot be forgotten that self-righteousness, that Sunday afternoon, conquered not just the judgements but souls of those who shouted Schuster down, turning them into willing accomplices to selfishness in a globalized world.
They shouted him down under the influence of that compulsive and ruthless animal called fury. Although the despicable behaviour might have delivered a mild culture shock, it did not shake Schuster’s faith to the foundations. Thanks poetry, Schuster did not stop.
The benefits of poetry, it can be said, are abstract, and the whole landscape does not suddenly change because a poet has spoken, or rather recited, in a local language.
It was obvious that, if he had powers of his own, Schusterwould have been willing to work some special magic on his tongue so that he could turn his German into Chichewa.
But, then, Land of poets— which was a heroically crammed one-day schedule— was just a Malawian affair in name; the style of delivery was exclusively universal in that it was feeling-based.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Polytechnic Students Start Demonstrations

... Police start firing teargas canisters
Students from The Polytechnic, a Blantyre-based constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), have started demonstrating against the recent fees hike effected by the University Council.
This means the students have joined the cause of their counterparts at Chancellor College in Zomba. Chancellor College has since been closed.
However, it seems that the police have been ready since morning. As early as 08:30 am, heavily-armed police were seen lining at Chichiri Shopping Mall in Malawi's commercial city.
Reports of imminent students' demonstrations had been making rounds all week.
The Polytechnic students did immediately join their Chancellor College counterparts because they were sitting examinations.
As things stand now, some students from The Polytechnic have left for home, but others-- those intent on making their position known on the issue of fees' hike-- have remained behind.
The Polytechnic is situated along the Masauko-Chipembere Highways, one of the busiest roads in Malawi.
Any demonstrations easily spill into the highway, as students often vent their anger on vehicles and passers-by.
The tear-gassing has started. What next?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'Chancellor College Closure not linked to Jill Biden near-stoning Incident'

Chancellor College students who went out to stone vehicles and people like Jill Biden might have hoped that, after performing their day’s labour, they would go back to the college base to rest for the night, recoup energy, and prepare for another battle on Wednesday.
It was not to be.
They have received news that the college, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, has been closed indefinitely.
So, it is back home they go; to face angry parents and a world with dates, but blind dates in their case because the suspension is indefinite.
Embarrassing: U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden [not seen], takes refuge in Eastern Region Police headquarters on Tuesday
However, Education Minister Emmanuel Fabiano – who was in the company of Biden when she sought refuge at Eastern Region Police headquarters in Zomba— has moved quickly to deny that he has not influenced the college’s decision to close its doors to students.
“I have nothing to do with the closure. I do not interfere in such matters,” Fabiano, a former University of Malawi Vice Chancellor, told Zachimalawi on Tuesday.
This means, while students at other University of Malawi constituent colleges— namely Kamuzu College of Nursing, College of Medicine and The Polytechnic— will continue learning, sitting examinations, eating, and receiving book allowances.
Chancellor College students have become willing sacrificial lambs in the battle, nobody knows what! Maybe unobstructed access to information.
“I repeat, I played no role in the closure,” reiterated Fabiano.
It promises to be a long holiday.
In 2011, when President Peter Mutharika was serving as Education Minister under his brother Bingu’s second term, University of Malawi constituent colleges were closed for closed to a year over what became known as the ‘Academic Freedom’ wrangle.
Peter did nothing to intervene and the wrangle went unresolved for close to a year.
Today, Peter is the President.
So, just as U.S. Second Lady Jill Biden failed to visit a project site in Machinga today, Chancellor College students will fail to visit their own classrooms on Wednesday.

Jill Biden Resigns to Fate, Goes Back to Lilongwe

...fails to attend pre-organised functions
...guns 'bow' to mere stones

The ceiling of U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden’s tank of hope dropped so low that she had to abandon a trip she must have prepared for months.
Jill, wife to U.S. vice-president, Joe Biden, is on a three-day visit to Malawi. Filled in the three-day package are trips to a number of project sites.
Aborted trip: Biden [inside the building but not shown] seeks refuge in Eastern Region Police headquarters
While everything went as planned in Machinjiri, Blantyre, where Biden announced that the U.S. would provide $20 million in relief aid [through the World Food Programme], all hell broke loose in Zomba, as Biden was being driven to Machinga District, to visit a United States Agency for International Development project.
Students from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, blocked the road at Matawale in Zomba City, threatening to pelt stones and any vehicle that ‘defied’ the order.
On this day [Tuesday], Biden happened to be one of the people— of all people— travelling on this road. Her convoy had to, in a hurry, change direction and face where they were coming from [Blantyre].
But, then, even Blantyre did not seem safe. So, Biden and her security detail—as well as Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano—took refuge in Eastern Region Police Headquarters, a colonial facility that looks like a museum than modern police base.
But Biden hid there, and was lucky not to come across spider webs. Or, maybe, she was entangled in them [spider webs] but did not announce such an encounter.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO NEXT? Biden's security detail seems to say

Biden spent less than an hour at Eastern Police Headquarters and, when it was time to move on, she did not go where she had intended to go [Machinga]. Love for Dear Life, perhaps, forced her to drive back to Blantyre, Malawi’s Commercial City, and back, again, to Lilongwe, Malawi’s Capital City.
She is back in Lilongwe now. She has arrived safely.
One only hopes she will, as safely, come over the events of Tuesday.

Jill Biden’s day of success
Biden will sleep today knowing that she has, at least, done something commendable today.

On the day that students armed with stones forced her to return to Blantyre, and Lilongwe, she made an announcement that will change lives.

Read the statement below to know what this is all about:

During her ongoing three-day visit to Malawi, the Second Lady of the United States of America, Dr. Jill Biden, today announced the United States is donating $20 million (MK14 billion) in food assistance to support vulnerable, food insecure communities in Malawi. This brings the United States’ total contribution to the humanitarian response to $74.7 million (MK52 billion) since October 2015.

"The United States remains committed to supporting the region, including Malawi, during the difficult months ahead. I’m so pleased to announce today $20 million in assistance to Malawi through the UN World Food Program. The announcement today brings the total United States assistance to $74.7 million since the start of the food crisis in October,” said Dr. Biden while visiting a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Food for Peace project in Traditional Authority Machinjiri.

U.S. Ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer added, “We are working very closely with the government of Malawi and other development partners to ensure hunger does not roll back the important development gains made in Malawi, particularly for women and girls.”

Over 6.5 million people in Malawi are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the 2016 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC)—an increase from 2.8 million people during last year’s agricultural season. Southern Africa is experiencing a historic drought exacerbated by the strong impacts of the El Niño weather event. The government of Malawi released a disaster declaration in April 2016 due to extreme drought conditions exacerbated by El Niño.

The United States has mobilized an early and integrated response to El Niño's impacts, including assistance to meet immediate needs and adaptation of development and resilience efforts to address longer term vulnerabilities, mitigate impacts, and protect gains made. The international community must coordinate quickly and at scale now to meet immediate needs as well as taking steps with the government of Malawi to build resilience to recurring droughts and other climate risks.

Since 2012, the United States has provided over $151 million (MK105 billion) of food assistance to Malawi. In addition, through President Obama’s Feed The Future and Global Climate Change Initiatives, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting activities valued at approximately US$25 million annually to reduce food insecurity, poverty, and under-nutrition by increasing agricultural production and helping communities adapt to climate change.

Jill Biden Kept at Eastern Region Police Headquarters

U.S. Second Lady, Jill Biden, took refuge in Eastern Region Police Headquarters' offices when students from Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, blocked her way Tuesday morning.
Biden is in the country on a three-day visit. She has so far annonced the donation of $20 million as part of the U.S. humanitarian response to the hunger situation facing over 6 million Malawians.
Unplanned stop: Jill Biden [not in the picture] inside Eastern Region Police Headquarters as members of her security detail go outside
Biden was on her way to Zomba, but was forced to change direction as irate students vowed to stone each and every car.
Biden had to hide at Eastern Region Police Headquarters [as seen in this picture, taken by Emmanuel Mtambalika].
Biden's trip to Machinga District, where she wanted to visit some of the projects being run by the U.S. governemnt,has since been councelled.
Biden was in the company of Minister of Education, Emmanuel Fabiano, when she sought refuge at the Eastern Region Police Headquarters.
She stayed inside, as her armed security detail stood outside.

Joe Biden's Wife, Jill, Nearly Stoned in Malawi

...Her convoy forced to change direction
...The situation is tense in Zomba City

Jill Biden, wife to U.S. Vice-President, Joe, narrowly escaped being pelted by stones in Malawi’s old Capital City, Zomba, on Tuesday.
Jill is in Malawi, after arriving on Monday to fulfill some assignments.
On Tuesday, Jill was scheduled to visit Machinga District in Southern Malawi [unofficially called the Eastern Region]. The road to Machinga passes through Zomba City, which borders that former.
However, Jill’s convoy— which caused traffic jam along the Masauko-Chipembere Highway in Blantyre around 08:30 am, on Jill’s way to Machinga— had to be forced to return after irate students from Chancellor College started pelting stones at vehicles driving on the Blantyre-Zomba-Machinga route.
Students from Chancellor College— a constituent college of the University of Malawi— are protesting recent fee hike in the university. Effective the 2016/17 academic year, the University Council has pegged fees for generic students at K400, 000 [from K320, 000] at Chancellor College; K600, 000 at the College of Medicine [from K500, 000], K450, 000 [from K340, 000] at the Kamuzu College of Nursing and K400, 000 at The Polytechnic [from 320, 000].
Mature entry students have not been spared either. At Chancellor College, those who were paying K275, 000, K300, 000 and K450, 000 [according to programme] now have to cough K900, 000 at Chancellor College. At the College of Medicine, access to academic services has been pegged at K1.4 million [from K900, 000], Kamuzu College of Nursing mature entry students have to source K1 million [up from K650, 000] and students from The Polytechnic will be coughing K950, 000 [up from K275, 000.
Chancellor College students on Monday went to present their grievances to the University Office [located 50 metres from Eastern Region Police headquarters] and went blocked by police. Running battles ensued, and skirmishes have continued today.
At least one rifle belonging to a Malawi Police Service police mobile service was dismantled yesterday.
So, it seems that Jill found herself in the cross-fire [sorry, cross-stones]. And, for her act of generosity to come to Malawi on some charitable cause, Jill’s seven-vehicle convoy was forced to return back to Malawi.
Of course, not before some stones were thrown!
The incident raises questions over the ‘intelligence’ of Malawi’s intelligence services. Surely, National Intelligence Bureau knew that the situation was tense in Zomba City. And, yet, they still advised Jill to use the Blantyre-Zomba-Machinga road.
It also raises questions about the U.S. security services. Were they not warned?
What happened to the FBI?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Zimbabwe playing double standards on imports

So, South Africa and Zimbabwe are embroiled in a trade battle of imports, when the Southern African Development Community promotes trade in the block?
I find it laughable. While it is true that South Africa behaves like Big Brother watching over little sister, and uses, to some degree, the continent as a dumping site, this can only be because South African products are durable. More durable than Chinese goods! I mean, Chinese goods designed for low-income markets.
And, in this regard, the Chinese cannot be blamed as well.
Back to the Zimbabwe-South Africa issue.
It seems that Comrade Bob is worried that the influx of South African products --including water, for nature'sake, camphor [again, for nature's sake] -- is choking local business in Zimbabwe.
So, Uncle Bob decides to limit the type of products to cross the borders into Zimbabwe, in much the same way as South Africa attempted to limit the number of Zimbabweans making it across the borders into South Africa during Zimbabwe's years of economic rot.
But South Africa is having none of it. South Africa is sending a list of 100 products to Zimbabwe. It wants Zimbabwe to choose, out of the list, which ones to ban and which ones to open the borders for.
Good move.
However, I think Zimbabwe is playing double standards. Other African countries have played the dumping-site-role for Zimbabwe and meekly--like sheep that is yet to be introduced to the word 'revolt'-- accepted the position.
Take Malawi, for instance. We have apples from Zimbabwe. We have onions from Zimbabwe. We have sweet potatoes from Zimbabwe. We have salt from Zimbabwe.
And Zimbabwe wants to control imports from other countries?
And Zimbabwe has imposed heavy import taxes on goods from other countries, South Africa and Malawi inclusive?
That must, like always, Zimbabwe's kick in the mouth of Father Africa and, by extension, regional integration.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Giddes' Chalamanda's Home-Coming

Eighty-six-year-old musician, Giddes Chalamanda, fulfilled his dream of visiting the United States of America when he left Malawi for the US on June 28.

Chalamanda made his intentions of visiting the US clear in the 1970s, when he composed Buffalo soldier, in which lyrically explained that his life-dream was to visit the U.S..

That dream has been realised, and the musician even visited the Library of Congress, where he performed alongside Edgar ndi Davis.

He also visited Washington, D.C., Indiana State, apart from performing in German Town.

Well, today, Chalamanda arrived in Malawi and I was there to capture some 'moments'

The pictures 'show' some of those moments.

Giddes Chalamanda and, the last picture, Edgar Njobvu of Edgar ndi Davis duo upon arrival at Chileka International Airport.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Education standards mantra is misplaced

For a long time, the song in Malawi has been that education standards have dwindled. The yardstick has always been Malawi National Examinations Board results at Primary, junior and senior secondary school levels.
What is quickly forgotten is the fact that examinations' results are just one of the factors influencing the outcomes; the others being learning environment, demotivation of teachers, cultural context, religious context, historical context, home environment, among others.
Factors such as demotivation, learning environment and cultural context may be self-explanatory; so, let me focus on religious and historical context.
Some districts in Malawi, most notably the Southern Region districts of Machinga and Mangochi have high illiteracy rates because the Muslim population is dominant and pupils born from Muslim parents are sent to schools where they learn more about the Holy Koran other than conventional school. This has bled a population of illiterate people in Machinga and Mangochi, and is a typical example of the culture context.
That said, the Central Region district of Dedza has always been a puzzle when considered as a cog in the game-of-illiteracy. The district has Chewas, Ngonis, Yaos and yet, despite the ethnic diversity, illiteracy levels are high. Dedza is a puzzle whose answer has eluded education experts. But, then, this is a story for another day.
Historical context, which is the reason for my posting is another crucial factor which is often overlooked. But the truth is that our education is not 'Malawian' because it was introduced by the British. We even speak their language:English. Whoever controls your language controls you.
So, in a way, Malawians have so many gods (they are idol worshippers), one of their gods being the English language!
Actually, it's not just Malawians (meaning, the individual citizens) who worship English. Their examinations' board, the Malawi National Examinations Board, is the grand-worshipper of the little God called English because you may score 1s in all Malawi School Certificate of Education subjects (be it Geography, Chichewa, Biology, History, Life Skills, History, Chemistry, Bible Knowledge, and what have you) but failure in English means one does not receive a certificate.
What nonsense!
This means English is the best thing to have ever happened to Malawians. What twaddle!
After all this worshipping of the little god called English, we all talk about how low 'our' education standards have sunken.
And, there, lies our biggest mistake. The education does not belong to us; it belongs to the English, who control us by ensuring that we speak in their language and that, most sadly, our definition of failure should be premised on how we fare in English.
When the Akafula, Abathwa or Amwandionerapati-the first inhabitants of Malawi (of course, before Malawi was born-did not have the word 'yellow'in their vocabulary but could communicate effectively. As they say in Cultural Studies, every language is sufficient to meet the needs of that language. When they got into contact with other languages, their vocabulary became limited. They had to accommodate new terminologies. The worst case is that of the Ngoni of Malawi, though. Through exposure to the Chewas and Tumbuka, all their words became limited and they did not only lose their soul; they also lost their language in its entirety, although some pockets of Ngonis speak it and Hora Mountain in Mzimba has become a kind of cross for the Ngoni of Mzimba. Like the two sinners hung with Jesus Christ, they find salvation by looking up - be it upon the cross or Hora Mountain. Maybe their souls and language, respectively, may be redeemed.
What I am saying is that whoever controls one's language controls the other's self. In our case, the British control our thinking because we think in their language. That is not all, however; they even control our education system. If a candidate fails in the English language, they fail themselves, and fail life itself. How sad!
So, when we say our education standards have fallen, we are talking nothing about ourselves, really. More so because we do not have education standards of our own. Instead, we look at standards through the eyes of the British, who decided what sort of education we should have!
No wonder that, with Brexit, some Malawians are having sleepless nights. Unsure of what the impact of Brexit may be on Malawi!
How sad!
So, the British -through their language, English- even control people's sleep in Malawi (in terms of how much sleep one should have)?
How funny!
Unless we describe what constitutes quality education, through comparative analyses of other countries, say in Southern Africa, or some historical context of us against ourselves (in terms of how well candidates used to fare, say, in the 1970s, we cannot talk of education standards going to the dogs because, really, all we are doing is measure education standards using 'foreign' eyes: Those of the British, who control our language, our thinking and, in worst cases, even some people's sleep!
In summary, Malawians are not independent enough to talk of quality education. After all, apart from Chinamwali, Jando, Chikudzukudzu, among others, they (Malawians) do not have education of their own. They are orphaned, education wise.
How scandalous!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lagos-based Malawians Form Hunger Taskforce

Malawians based in Lagos, Nigeria, have formed what they call Malawi Anti-Hunger Taskforce to help mobilise funds fr hunger-stricken families back home.
State President, Arthur Peter Mutharika, declared a State of National Disaster on April 12 this year, after Malawi failed to meet its national food production needs.
Finance Minister, Goodall Gondwe, announced in the 2016/17 budget statement that the country requires an additional 790,000 metric tonnes of relief food to support an estimated 8.4 million people. An additional 250,000 metric tonnes is required for sale in Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation markets.
That is not all, though, as 250,000 more metric tonnes are required to restock the strategic grain reserves.
Chairperson for the Lagos-based Malawi Anti-Hunger Taskforce, Emmanuel Mtambalika Mapasa, said the tasforce has managed to mobilise 26 Malawians and has so far mobilised K5.6 million for the cause.
"Our target is to raise funds amoubting to K500 million from Malawians based in Lagos. So far, 23 Malawians have pledged to contribute money ranging from K1 million to K3 million by July 15 this year. We plan to send a delegation of four people to Malawi to present the funds through the Office of the Vice President. We would have loved to present the funds through the formal diplomatic system but I think you know that fraud is rampant in our embassies," said Mtambalika Mapasa.
Mtambalika Mapasa has been staying in Lagos for the past 15 years.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Likangala Form Four Students Go Wild

... speeding vehicle hits three
... One cries uncontrollably

The teachers at Likangala Secondary School in Zomba City had, most likely, good intentions when they hatched the idea of organising a graduation event for Malawi School Certificate of Education students.
The examinations, now at nose-distance away, are not here. But they will be there because the Malawi National Examinations Board already finalised all the work. Again, it is not common for the Malawi National Examinations Board to postpone examinations, save when there is a massive leakage. Like it happened the other year, and all Malawi National Examinations Board employees had to walk with their tails between their legs.
Except the State President. He was a shameless man, and kept his head high in that shameful year. As if nothing had gone wrong.
But there was nothing to hold one's head high about on Friday at Likangala Secondary School after everything went wrong at what was meant to be a graduation ceremony.
Instead of cerebrating, three candidates were 'chewing' the fruits of their insolence.
Having endured the various academic challenges posed to them in the past four years of learning and unlearning, the candidates decided to be too explicit with what they probably thought is the freedom they will 'buy' after sitting [sitting examinations or sitting for examinations are both right] examinations. So, some of the candidates came to the event drunk. Mostly the male candidates. School relationships that had been hidden for years were revealed as some candidates chose to hold and fondle in public. Right before their teachers!
Malawi is suffering from a silent moral crisis! Such behaviour did put the candidates at the fulcrum of debate on Friday. And such behaviour brought to the fore the suggestion that, maybe, Malawians should be compelled to find a new stabilised formula of morality. Dictatorship was mistaken for a political system, other than a stabilised formula of enforcing morality and, so, people hate. But Malawi is at a cross-roads and another formula of stabilisation should be found.
That is one of the thoughts that kept bouncing off my and other people's heads on Friday. At least the ones I was talking with.
To cut a long story short [because I know I have confused you already], the graduation ceremony ended by 4:30 pm and the candidates were furious that it ended so early.
So, they swarmed the nearby road; the road to Mpondabwino Market and Mpunga Township. They started stoning vehicles. Some jumped on the boots of on-coming vehicles and smashed windscreens.
That is when one taxi came speeding [travelling at, perhaps, 80 kilometrees per hour] in the driver's bid to prevent the apparently drunk, out-of-sorts candidates from jumping on it.
But, as I watched, three candidates jumped onto the vehicle, probably thinking the driver would press his feet hard on the brakes and stop.
Big mistake!
They were hit, in broad daylight, and came sprawling to the ground like poorly packed 50-kilogramme bags of rice.
Some candidates in front of the vehicle stoned it and the driver had to stop. They beat him to pulp instead of attending to their fellow students.
The driver, surprised, rushed back into his vehicle and sped away.
Noone was willing to take the three hit, and seriously injured candidates to hospital. To make matters worse, reality [meaning, pain] caught up with the students and they started crying uncontrollably.
Two of them could not even stand up. They cried, apparently in pain, at the slightest touch.
They had paid the price of insolence.
And, then, they have not even sat [you either sit examinations, of sit for examinations: it's all grammatically correct] the examinations!

Friday, June 10, 2016

American Ambassador tours Chancellor College Library

American Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, is on a tour of Chancellor College Library in a bid to appreciate the environment it operates in.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

African Union hails Muhammad Ali as 'true Pan Africanist'

Press Release No. 220/2016

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – 6 June 2016: The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has hailed the African-American boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, as a true Pan Africanist. The AU Commission Chairperson described Muhammad Ali, also widely known as, “The Greatest of all time”, while sending her deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of the fallen giant around the world.

The AU Commission Chairperson said Muhammad Ali was a hugely inspiring figure whose impact, beyond his punches in the boxing ring, generated waves of vibration across diverse populations around the globe. He will be missed the world over, and no less in Africa.

Muhammad Ali’s deep roots and extensive connections with the continent of Africa were unshaken. He never let-go of any single opportunity to re-echo his ancestral link with the “homeland”, as he put it in his own words, upholding Africa as the cradle of civilization.

While fighting against George Foreman in the famous encounter that became known as the “Rumble in the Jungle,” in 1974, in Kinshasa, of former Zaire, Muhammad Ali reminded the world that, “Original man’s from Africa. All civilizations started in Africa.” He fought for freedom, justice and equality, including for black people, with unreserved energy and full determination. He supported Africa’s fight against colonialism, including the fight against Apartheid in South Africa.

Muhammad Ali gained prominence (aside from boxing) during the American Civil Rights Movement as a result of his resistance to white domination, and was a champion of minority rights. His stance on issues of freedom, injustice, peace and reconciliation earned him the appointment as United Nations Messenger for Peace in 1998.

He was a great son of Africa, who paid numerous visits to countries and met with different leaders of Africa. “Muhammad Ali was larger than life! His passion and compassion will be greatly missed and forever remembered.” Dr. Dlamini Zuma paid tribute to the fallen baobab.

Leaders across the African continent, have joined global voices to pay tribute to the memory and legacy of Muhammad Ali - a clear pointer to the enormous impact Ali had on the people of Africa.

Muhammad Ali died on Friday, 3 June 2016, at the age of 74, in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospital, after being hospitalized for a respiratory illness a day before.

Monday, June 6, 2016

President Peter Mutharika's Administration running out of steam

The signs are everywhere: President Peter Mutharika and his Minister of Finance and Economic Planning are tired, old men who have nothing constructive to offer to this country.
In their wisdom, the two tired, old men think that talk time, news print, among others, are luxuries this nation can do without.
Come to think of it, in their tired brains, the two tired old men have decided to bring back the late president, Bingo wa Mutharika's script that all but buried freedom of expression in this country.
Bingu, for starters, introduced surtax on news print, thereby influencing price adjustments. Well, people did not stop buying and reading newspapers.
Today, the two tired old men have decided to take us back to the Bingu-situation. They have, in their tired wisdom, decided to impose new suitable measures on news print. The effect is immediate. The cover price of local newspapers have gone up by K50.
At the moment, the most extensive newspaper in Malawi -which mostly happen to be weekend papers- goes at K450 but, thanks to the tired wisdom of two old men who seem to have run out of steam, that is bound to change in the coming days.
The newspapers have made their intentions clear through notices in the newspapers.
I do not know how the Mutharika brothers developed an aversion to freedom of expression, but what I know is that their hatred of the same is so conspicuous it stinks!
Retire, two old men!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

RICHARD CHIROMBO: Media Institute of Souther Africa- Malawi Chapter 'Best Blogger of the Year 2016'

BLOGGER OF THE YEAR, RICHARD CHIROMBO receiving his prize of a Samsung Galaxy Tab from Edward Monster, Public Affairs Officer at the United States Embassy in Malawi, during the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Malawi Chapter media awards gara in Mangochi, May 7, 2016

RICHARD CHIROMBO: Media Institute of Southern Africa - Malawi Chapter Human Rights Journalist of the Year 2016

Blogger and journalist RICHARD CHIROMBO receiving his prize [Lenovo laptop] from Centre for the Development of People Executive Director, Gift Trapence, during the Media Institute of Southern Africa - Malawi Chapter media awards gara in Mangochi, May 7, 2016.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Malawi Revenue Authority is Bad Mother

Malawians will work up one day and discover that all their companies are owned by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA)!
I say so from an experience I had in Zomba on Saturday. One grocer was visited by MRA officials on Friday and told to shut down the grocery in Zomba Central Business District because he has not remitted tax for goods he sold on pay-forward basis.
I was there and saw it with my own eyes!
We MRA is doing is turning citizens into slaves of debt. If you sell something on credit, MRA seems to think, you have to borrow money to settle taxes for monies you have not collected!
Where one gets the money, the MRA does not care.
This practice is counter-productive and must stop immediately. If the bosses at MRA have run out of ideas, let them resign.
Let business organisations and individuals settle tax dues when they have the money at hand, and not when MRA unreasonably demands that organisations and individuals source money from wherever they can to settle MRA dues even when the money is not readily available because the client will pay forward.
It is an acceptable practice in business to pay forward, especially when there is trust between seller and buyer.
MRA is milking the cow that is traders thin and, with zero-aid budgets, it may discover that it has nobody but itself to milk.
Lastly, let me thank the United States Embassy for the Samsung Galaxy Tab I received as my prize for being Media Institute of Southern Africa - Malawi Chapter Best Blogger of the Year 2016. As you can deduce, the Galaxy Tab is now working and there is no excuse for not posting everyday, even though I have three more months to finish my Bachelor of Arts (Communication and Cultural Studies) programme, which affected the frequency of blog posts in the last two years. Thanks for being there for me, and for sticking to the boat./i>

Saturday, May 28, 2016


1. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the estimates on the recurrent and developmentaccounts for the 2016/17 budget of the Government of Malawi be referred to the committees of Parliament before they are considered by the Committee of the Whole vote by vote, and that, thereafter, they be adopted.

2. Mr Speaker, Sir, once more, I feel greatly humbled by His Excellency the State President, Professor Arthur Peter
Mutharika, for assigning to me the noble responsibility of leading his economic management team. At the outset, I am
pleased to present my third budget of the current administration, and to do so at a time when significant progress is being registered towards strengthening the public finance management system, as confirmed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March this year.

[PAGE 1]
3. On the other hand, I stand here to present before this august House yet another budget that has been prepared
against the backdrop of various socioeconomic challenges facing our country, key among them being the food insecurity crisis occasioned by the El Nino climatic episode that the country has undergone for the second time consecutively. While, as expected, I will touch on this subject in detail later as did His Excellency the President, let me hasten to state that I am pleased to report that some pledges have already started being received by Malawi in response to the proclamation of a State of National Disaster by His Excellency the President.
I am therefore confident that, with the cooperation of all Malawians and our development partners, we will, once again, overcome this challenge.
4. Mr Speaker, Sir, the country continues to face significant resource constraints due to continued deep reductions in donor support that was habitually provided to us through the budget. Over and above that, it has been lamentable that our collection of tax and non-tax revenues has also declined
[PAGE 2]
in 2015/16, despite the ever-increasing demands for the delivery of critical public goods and services. In this context, I wish to ask the House to commend the African Development Bank (ADB) for its recent pledge of budget support, once again.
Honourable Members will recall that the ADB also came to the country’s rescue with budgetary support during the 2014/15
financial year. Similarly, during his visit to Malawi in April 2016, the new ADB president pledged further support for the current and the coming financial years.
Malawi is grateful for this generosity. More generally, our ability to ride over the catastrophic climatic episode of last year was due to such support, especially that received from the World Bank, the United States Government, the United Kingdom, and other large bilateral donors.
Moreover,Mr. Speaker, Sir we are yet to use the pledged support from China and Japan. We are also proud that Egypt and South Africa,as brotherly African countries, also came to our rescue. I want to emphatically register
our gratitude for the assistance received from all our multilateral and bilateral development partners towards the
[ PAGE 3]
implementation of various Government programmes, regardless of whether or not such assistance was channelled through
the national budget. We remain hopeful that our development partners will continue to provide this support, to assist us in addressing our short-term food security and social challenges, and meeting our enormous developmental needs.
5. Therefore, Mr Speaker, Sir, the budget that I am presenting to this august House is therefore not just concerned with funding Government ministries, departments and agencies, but also seeks to address some of the short and medium-term challenges that we have faced and will continue to face as a result of climate change.
This must remain our policy, and all Malawians and development partners must focus on the achievement of this policy if we are to be relevant to this country’s needs for some time to come.
6. As part of the drive towards the promotion of a hardworking spirit, it is of utmost importance that the public and
private sector resources should be utilised
where they are most productive. It is for this reason that the Government continues to intensify its fight against fraud and corruption, because these societal evils create a huge disincentive for hard work, while at the same time mis-directing resources from productive use.
In addition, the payment of Western-style bonuses to top executives in the private sector must be a major Government concern, because it entails a waste of resources that could have been re-invested productively. It also worsens income inequalities, and creates disincentives in other equally important sectors of the economy. The practice in some companies to pay salaries equal to those received by executives in developed countries and grant them huge perks
should be roundly questioned, just as it was questioned in those countries in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. Surely, salaries equivalent to US20,000 per month or more in Malawi cannot be conducive to the needed investments nor to continued social harmony.
[PAGE 5]
7. At this point, Mr Speaker, Sir, I would also like to discourage what has emerged as a persistent culture of demanding more and more of the limited Government resources among the leaderships of some of our public institutions, through enhanced conditions of service. These demands are increasingly becoming insensitive to the economic depression that the country is passing though and, therefore, unpatriotic.
Global, Regional and National Economic Performance
8. Mr Speaker, Sir, before delving deep into budgetary matters, let me share with the House the global, regional and national economic outlook to show that the economic depression that has inflicted Malawi has engulfed the SADC region and affect other countries as well.
The Global Economy
The world economy is becoming increasingly integrated, and sound economic management requires that we should be fully aware of the changes around us. In this regard, I wish to inform the
[PAGE 6]
House that the global economy slowed down in 2015 to 3.1 percent, from 3.4 percent in 2014. The decline reflects a slowdown in emerging market economies, especially commodity exporters, due to low export prices. In 2015, oil and non-oil commodity prices declined by 47.3 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively. However, this decline was partially offset by modest growth in some advanced economies, especially in the Euro area.
This was triggered by the same decline in commodity prices, stronger private consumption, as well as expansionary monetary policies.
9. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the world economy is projected to grow by the same 3.1 percent in 2016, but higher growth prospects are projected for 2017. Despite the stronger performance in some emerging markets, growth prospects remain subdued in most advanced economies. In terms of emerging markets, India’s growth is projected to strengthen from 7.3 percent in 2015 to 7.5 percent in 2016 on account of recent policy reforms, investment growth, and lower
commodity import prices. On the other hand, a slowdown in economic growth is
expected in China, from 6.9 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2016. Among advanced economies, subdued growth prospects
reflect increased uncertainties. As a result, real output growth in the USA is projected to remain at 2.4 percent in 2016, as in 2015. Similarly, growth in Japan is projected to remain at 0.5 percent in 2016, as in 2015, reflecting a drop in private consumption.
In the United Kingdom,growth is expected to decline further from 2.2 percent in 2015 to 1.9 percent in 2016.
10. Mr. Speaker, Sir, low oil prices augur well for economic growth for oil importing developing countries like Malawi.
The modest growth in developed countries will spur real effective demand for exports.
The 2016/17 Budget framework takes this economic forecast into perspective.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s Economic Performance
11. Mr. Speaker, Sir, economic growth in the sub-Saharan African region slowed down to 3.4 percent in 2015, from 5.1 percent in 2014. This slowdown was
[PAGE 8]
primarily driven by the declining commodity prices, especially oil prices, as well as lower demand from China, which is the region’s largest trading partner.
12. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the region’s oil importers registered an average growth of 4.0 percent in 2015 and the majority of them will continue to experience solid growth in 2016. On the other hand, some of region’s low income countries generally continued to register commendable growth rates, although others faced challenges. For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania registered growth rates of at least 6 percent
in 2015, and were expected to sustain this in 2016. On the other hand, growth in Sierra Leone and Zambia slowed down to
less than 4 percent in 2015, on account of a slump in the prices of their main export commodities. Similarly, growth for South Africa, Malawi’s main import source, closed at below 1.5 percent in 2015, due to electricity load shedding and other supply side bottlenecks.
[ PAGE 9]
13. In 2016, growth for the Sub-Saharan region is expected to remain weak at 3.0 percent, due to the continued slowdown in the global economy. However, it is projected to pick up to around 4 percent in 2017 on account of a mild expected rebound in oil and other commodity prices.
An improvement in the outlook for Ebola affected countries is expected also to support this growth.
Malawi’s Economic Performance
Mr Speaker, Sir, it is clear that, were it not for the adverse climatic episodes, the economy of Malawi would have performed much better. Instead. Malawi’s real GDP growth slowed down substantially from the rate of 6.2 percent registered in 2014 to 3.1 percent in 2015 due to the erratic weather conditions that disrupted the 2015 harvest.
The undesirable performance in the agricultural sector, which declined by 1.6 percent last year, adversely affected the
performance of other sectors of the economy, including wholesale and retail trade as well as manufacturing. However,
Malawi’s economic growth of 3.1 in 2015
[PAGE 10]
percent compares favourably with those of most countries in the SADC and COMESA regions. For instance, South Africa and
Zimbabwe only grew by 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
14. As a result of the slow growth,unstable macroeconomic conditions persisted in 2015, despite showing signs of
improvement relative to 2014. The annual average inflation rate for 2015 was at 21.8 percent, down from 23.8 per cent in 2014.
This reflected the combined effect of food scarcity, a higher level of liquidity in the economy, as well as the unexpected depreciation of the exchange rate during the tobacco season.The weakening of the Malawi kwacha against major trading currencies was occasioned by a general strengthening of the US dollar and speculation among currency traders on the local market. The Kwacha depreciated from K450 per US dollar in February 2015, to K765 per dollar a year later.
However,Honourable Members may wish to note that domestic currency depreciation was worse in other countries, including some within the region. For instance, the Zambia
[PAGE 11]
Kwacha depreciated by almost 90 percent between February 2015 and February 2016.
The South African Rand also depreciated from ZAR11.63 to ZAR15.76 during the same period.
15. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the economic slowdown in 2015 also had a negative impact on the national budget. At midyear, for instance, domestic revenue underperformed by 4.1 percent against the target of K312.4 billion. However,
Honourable Members should take note that the underperformance in revenue collection also reflects weaknesses in the tax
administration system which must be addressed.
I will revert to this point later.
16. Moving forward, Mr Speaker, Sir, as projected by the IMF, the Malawi economy is expected to rebound from the real GDP growth rate of 3.1 percent in 2016 to 5.1 percent in 2016. Although the economy has been depressed by the El Nino weather episode which particularly adversely affected smallholder agricultural production, commercial agriculture has registered an increase. Growth in 2016 has
[PAGE 12]
also been anchored by a good performance in the services sectors notably, the wholesale and retail trade sector, the
information and communication sector, and the financial and insurance services sector.
17. As Honourable Members are aware,Mr Speaker, Sir, Malawi’s inflation has decelerated to 20.9 percent in April 2016.
Strategic Policy Issues
18. Mr Speaker, Sir, allow me to draw the attention of the House to some of the key strategic policy issues which the house could focus on during the debate.
Climate Change Mitigation: Creation of the Greenbelt Authority
19.<b> Mr Speaker, Sir, the adversities of the last two growing seasons are more than enough demonstration that the effects of climate change are here to stay with us, and that there is need to adapt in the most comprehensive manner in order to effectively break the cycle of perpetual food insecurity in this country. For this reason, as His Excellency the State President
[PAGE 13]
emphasised in his opening speech for this seating of Parliament, the Government has resolved to intensify irrigation farming in order to transform the economy from the excessive dependence on rain-fed agriculture, as a lasting solution to the challenge of climate change. The move will also increase the number of harvests per year to more than the current single harvest.
This could substantially increase the country’s rate of economic growth.
20. Honourable Members of the House are invited to note that feasibility and technical studies for the Shire Valley
Irrigation Project are progressing well, and it is expected that the World Bank and the African Development Bank will soon be approving the financing for the project.
Once done, the implementation of this project will constitute one of the most transformative development projects in the country. Furthermore, it is also expected that the Bwanje Valley Irrigation Scheme that has been proposed to the Chinese Government for funding will be implemented in the foreseeable future. This is also true of the Songwe Valley Irrigation Project. Projects such as these will be open
[PAGE 14]
to large-scale farmers on terms and conditions that will be agreed with the Government.
21. Mr Speaker, Sir, to coordinate these and many other large-scale irrigation infrastructure projects that will be necessary to fully pursue this agenda of transformation, the Government has decided to formally establish the Greenbelt Authority (GBA) as a stand-alone public agency. The authority will be the official agent for the construction of these large scale irrigation infrastructural projects throughout the country in line with the
Government’s Irrigation Master plan, while small-scale irrigation projects will continue to be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
Accordingly, the Treasury has established Vote 078 to allocate resources for the administrative and operational
expenses of the authority with immediate effect. This will be part of the 2016/17 budget. The large-scale irrigation
infrastructure projects will be part of the Government’s development programme. The House will note, therefore, that the
[PAGE 15]
irrigation plans that were announced by His Excellency the President are scheduled to be implemented immediately.
22. Mr Speaker, Sir, the implementation of smallholder irrigations projects in the country will continue under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. The Government will continue to support winter cropping among these farmers, and will distribute subsidised fertilizers and treadle pumps.
However, Honourable Members will agree with me that this support has been provided to smallholder farmers over a long time now, and it will be important to evaluate performance. In this regard, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will analyse these projects and determine how best they should be transformed in order to justify future allocation of public resources.
Addressing Food Insecurity
23. Mr Speaker, Sir, as I have already mentioned, Malawi is facing yet another wave of food insecurity, this time
[PAGE 16]
occasioned by the El Nino climatic episode.
The second round crop estimates recently released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development showed that maize production during the 2015/16 growing season has declined by an estimated 12.4 percent relative to
production in 2014/15. Maize production has been estimated at 2.4 million metric tons before adjusting for post-harvest loses.
Importantly, it is estimated that the country requires an additional 790,000 metric tons of relief food to support an estimated 8.4 million people. An additional 250,000 metric tons is required for sale in ADMARC markets, while another 250,000 metric tons is required to restock the strategic grain reserves. The production of other food crops such as rice, wheat, sorghum and millet has also been generally poorer than last year. As a result of this adverse outturn, His
Excellency the State President, Professor Author Peter Mutharika, declared a State of National Disaster in Malawi on 12 April 2016 in order to mobilise local and international support to save the lives of the affected people. Apart from Malawi, El Nino has also created food shortages in several
[PAGE 17]
other countries in the Southern African region, notably Madagascar, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
24. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to announce that the 2016/17 budget formally identifies Government intervention to the current food crisis as a key priority area. In this respect, the budget includes an allocation of K35.5 billion to the purchasing of food.
25. Mr. Speaker, Sir, our plans on how to address vulnerability to food shortages are normally based on estimates produced by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC). My Ministry and our collaborating partners are currently preparing the MVAC Report to determine the exact size, needs and distributional characteristics of the needed food supplies to the people. Certainly, development partners’ responses to His Excellency’s declaration and call for assistance will depend on the MVAC estimates which will not be available until June 2016.
However, the Government has already started making some tentative plans so that action may proceed straight away, as has been done by
[PAGE 18]

other countries in the Southern African region that have also been affected by the drought. In this case, we have negotiated with large-scale farmers who have committed to produce maize for sale to the Government through winter cropping.
26. In addition, ADMARC has also been empowered to purchase local maize for immediate sales, a process which has already started and is progressing well. This support is typically provided through Government guarantees for ADMARC to
borrow from commercial banks to purchase food for sales to the public.
27. Honourable Members will appreciate that it is not possible for the Government to shoulder the full cost of the food shortage.
The U.K. and the ADB already pledged their support in response to His Excellency the President’s disaster call. The United States Government has already pledged support amounting to about US$63 million for humanitarian food assistance, which will be managed by the World Food Program (WFP).
The ADB has also pledged US$18 million.
Moreover, the assistance pledged by the
[PAGE 19]
Chinese Government (of over US$9 million) and by the Japanese Government of US$7 million is still available to support the current crisis. The IMF has also provided support amounting to US$49 million through the Augmentation of Access facility, which allows the Government to borrow more money from the Reserve Bank of Malawi specifically for this purpose. The World Bank currently conducting a post-disaster needs assessment in the country, to determine their level of support through the Crisis Response Window facility.
Honourable Members will further recall that this facility was used by the World Bank to provide support amounting to US$80 million in response to the flood disaster of 2014/15, and the Government anticipates that the World Bank will be equally supportive this year. Indications of more support are currently being firmed up by the British Government, the WFP and other donors.
With the support of the United Nations Development Programme and other development partners, an Emergency Response Plan has also already been developed.
[PAGE 20]
28. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as indicated, the sum of MK35.5 billion has been allocated for the procurement of maize in the 2016/17 budget. Of this amount, MK6.0 billion is in support of the winter cropping initiative to purchase maize from large scale farmers through contract farming.
The total allocation for maize procurement is additional to the supplemental resources that the Treasury continues to provide in the current fiscal year for immediate relief.
Apart from other forms of support that the Government is receiving in response to the food security challenge, the House will be pleased to note that development partners cooperating under the Multi-Donor Trust Fund in Agriculture have indicated that they may provide additional resources specifically in support of winter cropping.
Boosting Rural Incomes
29. Mr Speaker, Sir, in view of the fact that smallholder farmers in rural areas have had drastically reduced agricultural production due to the drought, it follows that their incomes have also been reduced at a time when they will need resources to
[PAGE 21]
purchase food. The budget for 2016/17 is a vehicle through which resources will be directed towards an enhanced Public Works Programme. In this regard, at least MK500 million will be made available to each district, from the resources provided by the European Union and the World Bank. Over and above the usual works traditionally carried out under the programme, such as the construction and rehabilitation of roads as well as afforestation, the Government plans that, where necessary, the enhanced Public Works Programme should be used to construct infrastructure facilities like
hospital wards in places where the need has arisen. Other facilities that may be constructed are guardian shelters in
hospitals and hostels at community day secondary schools. These projects will be constructed on a labour-intensive basis to benefit as many people as possible.
Reforming the Farm Input Subsidy Programme
30. Mr Speaker, Sir, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) has been pivotal in the achievement of national food security
[PAGE 22]
during periods of good climatic conditions for agriculture. On the other hand, the implementation of FISP has generally been a fiscal challenge because of the associated exchange rate risk which has been wholly borne by the Government, leading to significant cost overruns every year. An additional challenge has been the targeting
mechanism. Various studies have revealed that only about 50 percent of the actual beneficiaries of the programme were eligible beneficiaries. Motivated by these challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development
implemented pilot FISP reforms during the 2015/16 growing season, from which positive lessons have been drawn. There is
now need to make deeper structural and financial improvements to the system so as to improve its effectiveness and reduce costs.
31. Mr Speaker, Sir, in order to address the aforesaid FISP implementation challenges while ensuring that genuine beneficiaries of the programme continue to receive support, I am pleased to inform the House that the
Government instituted some reforms in the
[ PAGE 23]
implementation of FISP. In particular, from the next growing season, the majority of districts that are easily reachable will be served by private sector fertilizer retailers.
Those that are not accessible will continue to be served by the Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi and ADMARC.
32. In view of the fact that during the past ten years the number of poor people has declined significantly, scope of the programme will be reduced to 900,000 beneficiaries instead of the traditional 1,500,000.The House will be pleased to note that the programme will continue to supply Urea and NPK fertilizers for maize. Some 60 percent of the volumes will be imported by private traders and sold directly to farmers, while the remaining 40 percent will be implemented through the Smallholder Framers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi, with support from ADMARC.
33. The private participants in the programme will be chosen by tender and given licences by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to trade
[PAGE 24]
in designated districts.The involvement of the public institutionsis very important in ensuring that hard-to-reach parts of the country are served. Mr Speaker, Sir, one of our lessons from the pilot FISP reform of
last year was that the private sector can withdraw and frustrate the programme at a crucial stage during the agriculture season.
In such eventualities, it is crucial for public institutions to take over supply in the affected districts.
34. The two public institutions will be expected to procure fertilizers directly from manufacturers. They will therefore issue tenders internationally and will also be supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development.
Moreover, the Government will provide coupons with a stated value per bag of fertilise or pack of seed, while farmers will be required to pay the difference between the market price and the coupon value to the Treasury. Programme funding will be based on actual coupons presented by suppliers. In this way, the Government will no longer be responsible for exchange rate variations.
[PAGE 25]
35. Mr Speaker, Sir, let me also inform the house that subsidised legume seed will also be provided under the programme in the next growing season and the Government would like to encourage farmers to grow as many legumes as possible, because of the multiple advantages of these crops. First, legume production is very rewarding to farmers.
Prices as high as K600 per kilogram have been realised by farmers this year, while the input and labour requirements for these crops are characteristically lower than those of other crops. Second, legumes have a ready international market, especially India, such that they have huge potential to resolve our foreign exchange challenges.
Finally, legume production is extremely useful for restoring soil fertility and lowering the demand for fertiliser use. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism will be responsible for organising the marketing of legumes domestically and overseas, and, together with the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Malawi, they will ensure that the
foreign exchange earned flows back into Malawi.
[PAGE 26]
Strengthening National Development Planning
36. Mr Speaker, Sir, you will recall that, in my 2015/16 Budget Statement presented in this very House, I indicated that the Government was planning to establish a national planning commission as an independent body for strategic thinking on matters of national development. I am pleased to report that significant work has been done to achieve this objective, and it is proposed that the commission be called the National Development Planning Commission. The work done by my ministry has determined that there is need to establish the commission through both a Constitutional provision and a separate law.
To this effect, I will soon be introducing two bills on this matter in this House. I request the Honourable Members to support this important initiate in order to ensure that the implementation of our national development agenda is informed by comprehensive expert analysis and sustainably insulated from political change.
[PAGE 27]
National Registration
37. Mr Speaker, Sir, previous Governments have not taken firm steps to introduce the national identity card, despite the enormous merits of doing so.
Notwithstanding the resource constraints that we face, this investment cannot be delayed any further, especially in view of the need to ensure that the card should be useful during the 2019 national elections.
In particular, the investment will serve the Government a significant amount of money that would otherwise be required for voter registration for the elections, while permitting the use of the card for many other important purposes such as the registration of civil servants to avoid the recurrence of “ghost workers”, identification of beneficiaries in the various subsidy, cash transfer and loan programmes, and well as screening individuals’ access to public services. Accordingly, the Government has resolved to proceed to rollout the national identity card in collaboration with
development partners. In order to ensure that the card can optimally serve multiple purposes, a decision has been made to
[PAGE 28]
invest in the best chip-based and durable technology. The total budget for the National Identity Cards Project is estimated at US$51.2 million, almost 70 percent of which is required within the next two fiscal years (that is, in 2016/17 and 2017/18). I am pleased to inform the House that an allocation has been made to support this effort in the 2016/17 budget, and the Government is negotiating with its Development partners to supplement the resources under a cost-sharing arrangement.
Public Finance Management Reforms
38. Mr Speaker, Sir, I now turn to the subject of public finance management reforms. Various commentators, including the IMF, have admitted that we have made significant progress over the past year in
strengthening the country’s public finance management system, although we recognise that more still needs to be done. To mention a few areas, we have now strengthened the functionality of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS)through equipment enhancements and the
[PAGE 29]
incorporation of key accounts into it. We have also progressed on the procurement of new software, for which adequate funding has now been identified. Honourable Members will be pleased to know that we have also completed our work on the
reconciliation of the backlog of transactions running up to June 2015. The National Audit Office is following up on these itemsfor the backlog up to December 2014, including the stock of K577 billion worth of unreconciled items that have been thesubject of an ongoing public debate.
The backlog for January to June 2015 is being tracked by the Central Internal Audit Unit.
Moreover, since July 2015, we have established a system that allows some of the reconciliations to be carried out by
ministries, departments and agencies, and that ensures that we do not generate another backlog of unreconciled items. The IMF is closely monitoring this process.
39. Further to this, Mr Speaker, Sir, we have now submitted all financial statements up to the 2014/15 financial year to the Auditor General, and have submitted a Treasury Minute to the Public Account
[ PAGE 30]
Committee to indicate the status of the Treasury’s follow-up on prior audit findings and the responses provided by controlling officers. We have also successfully conducted two tailor-made courses on fiscal management at the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM), attended by controlling officers, chief directors and other keyfinance and audit officials.
The aim of these courses was to raise the levels of awareness of and compliance with the financial rules and regulations. Significant amounts of technical assistance and training have also been directed towards the Accountant
General’s Department and the Central Internal Audit Unit.
40. Finally on the issue of financial management, Mr Speaker, Sir, there have been frequent complaints about funding
from various quarters. I wish to inform the House that we have had discussions with controlling officers on the matter, and it is clear that most of the concerns are managerial rather than being due to the absence of funding. In some cases, for instance, officers have expected to be funded according to the budgets that they
[ PAGE 31]
initially submitted to the Treasury, instead of what was approved by Parliament.
Therefore, I wish to advise Honourable Members against supporting these complaints without first asking for full
information. Instead, Members should be interested in establishing how the available resources are being managed within the Government.
Programme Based Budgeting
41. Mr Speaker, Sir, in our quest to integrate planning with budgeting, the budgeting approach is undergoing an improvement to strengthen the link between resource allocations and results for ministries and departments.
The approach provides a framework for performance measurement through defined targets on specified programme deliverables in a transparent and accountable manner. The approach also allows Parliament to carry out its oversight function more efficiently,since resources are tied to specific results that can be tracked.
Furthermore, it is our anticipation that improved budget scrutiny by the various stakeholders will help in
[PAGE 32]
budget implementation as controlling officers will be held more accountable for resources provided.
42. Mr Speaker, Sir, Programme-Based Budgeting was being piloted over the past two financial years, and is now ready to be rolled out to all ministries and departments.
The roll-out will be completed in due course when the reform will be extended to agencies. In order to ensure a seamless transition from the previous Output-Based Budgeting, officials from my ministry have held extensive workshops with all key stakeholders to introduce the concept of Programme-Based Budgeting.
These stakeholders include finance officers from the various MDAs, controlling officers, and some among yourselves, Honourable Members.
I am aware that Honourable Members of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, as well as chairpersons of all other committees of Parliament have attended these workshops. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Honourable Members for their clear support for this reform.
My Ministry stands ready to
[PAGE 33]
respond to any issues that may arise in this regard specifically, and throughout this budgetsitting of Parliament generally.
Performance of the 2015/16 Budget
43. Mr Speaker, Sir, let me now briefly discuss the performance of the budget for the current financial year. At this point, I invite members to refer to the new Programme-Based Budget Document that shows detailed performance by each vote.
As Honourable Members will recall, total expenditure and net lending in the 2015/16 budget was initially set at K923.8 billion excluding expenditures under the Malawi Rural Electrification Project (MAREP).
This figure was revised downwards at mid-term to K902.3 billion when the memorandum item is excluded, and to K917.2 billion inclusive of this memorandum item. Given the need to procure food items for immediate relief, the revised amount may be adjusted upwards to the extent of this expenditure. However, the figure of total revenue and grants was revised upwards from K763.5 billion to K784.8 billion at midyear.
This was on account of a projected
[PAGE 34]
increase in grants of K33.8 billion from K97.1 billion to K130.9 billion, while domestic revenuewas projected to decline from K666.3 billion to K653.9 billion, to the astonishment of both the Treasury and the IMF. As explained during the mid-term review, the revised budget was formulated to respond to the projected shortfall in domestic revenue. The performance of revenue has not improved since.
44. Honourable Members will be pleased to note that, unlike last year when the wage bill exerted pressure due to the recruitment of teachers, it has been kept under control this year and the revised figure of K222.3 billion for personal emoluments will hold to the end of the financial year.
The implementation of payroll administration measures, as well as a scale down in the recruitment of mostly non-essential staff, have been jointly central to this out turn.
The removal of suspected “ghost workers” from the payroll after the recent headcount has also assisted to reduce the wage bill.
Similarly, it is expected that the provision for interest on debt will be within the revised figure of K116.2 billion.
45. Mr. Speaker, Sir, other recurrent expenditures are projected to increase from the approved K350.0 billion to
K365.6 billion, notably because expenditure on FISP increased from 41.5billion to K63.9 billion. This was due
to the exchange rate depreciation experienced during the year.
This is one of the reasons why drastic FISP reforms will be implemented during next year’s budget.
46. Mr Speaker, Sir, the out turn suggests that the overall deficit of K138.2 billion in 2015/16 is projected to be lower than in the approved budget by about K28 billion. Moreover, Honourable Members may wish to note that, at 3.9 percent of GDP, the deficit is depicting a declining trend, from 6.2 percent of GDP in 2013/14. Equally, the domestic debt stock hasdeclined as a percentage of GDP from 19.5 percent in the 2013/14 to 14.0 percentby the end of December 2014/15.
This is an excellent result of fiscal operations which, if sustained, would bring the domestic debt stock toless than
12.5 percent of GDP, which is the internationally accepted threshold.
[PAGE 36]
47. To relate these financial developments to real budgetary outcomes, Honourable Members are,once again, encouraged to consult the relevant documents that adequately cover this material. In particular, the attention of the House is once again drawn to the newly introduced Programme-Based Budget Document, which is marked as Volume IV. This document does not only provide the outcome of the Budget in figures, but also contains details of the actual performance of the programmes being implemented by ministries or departments for which these expenditures were incurred.
The 2016/17 Draft Budget
48. Mr. Speaker, Sir, before I go further in discussing the proposed 2016/17 budget, I wish to explain the factors and priorities that have been taken into account in the preparation of this budget. Firstly, Mr. Speaker Sir, the proposed budget reflects the agreements made between the Government and the IMF within the context of the seventh and
[PAGE 37]
eighth reviews of the Extended Credit Facility arrangement. Most importantly, while the budget seeks to sustain efforts
to achieve macroeconomic stability, it also allows for a level of net domestic financing (or borrowing) that permits the Government to respond to the food insecurity crisis occasioned by the El Nino climatic episode that the country
has undergone.
As such, year-end net domestic financing (NDF) in 2016/17 is set at MK60 billion, compared with the lower limit of MK25 billion set in the 2015/16 budget. Further, the lower limit for the current fiscal year has also been relaxed to finance immediate food purchases.
49. Secondly Mr. Speaker, Sir, the proposed budget is based on several assumptions regarding the
macroeconomic outlook for the next financial year.Projected real GDP growth is at 5.1 percent while nominal GDP will
grow by 24.0 percent.
Moreover, we project that the average inflation rate in 2016/17 will be 17.4. These assumptions have been agreed with the IMF.
[PAGE 38]
50. Thirdly, Mr Speaker, Sir, the proposed budget has been based on the Government’s short and medium-term policy priorities as outlined in the 2016/17 Economic and Fiscal Policy Statement. These priorities are equally motivated by the objective of ensuring that the country maintains a program with the IMF, while addressing some
pressing socio-economic challenges that are evident. Therefore, the budget seeks to:
a. increase domestic resource mobilization so that tax revenue in tandem with the rate of growth in nominal GDP. The IMF hold the view that other similarly placed countries have achieved such a target;
b. ensure that adequate resources are allocated to enable maize procurement, and to support irrigation farming;
c. ensure that the wage bill is maintained below 7 percent of
[PAGE 39]
nominal GDP, while allowing the critical recruitment of teachers, doctors, nurses and security officers, as well asa modest salary increase for lower grades of the Civil Service; and
d. ensure that resource allocations to the health, education and other critical social sectors remain adequate and a significant proportion of the budget.
51. In order that the economy resumes robust growth rates, it is important that everybody be accustomed to modest salary level as was the case for a long time after independence. The results then were high national savings,
and investment ratios and discernible growth rates.
52. As I have explained, the Government, with support from various development partners, is working tirelessly to put in place a robust financial management system. It is expected that the European Union and the World Bank
[PAGE 40]
will resume general Budget support during the course of the 2016/17 fiscal year. Such resources will be applied
towards critical activities that the proposed budget is unable to include. We undertake to revert to Parliament with the proposed utilization of any additional budgetary resources that may become available in the course of the fiscal year.
As His Excellency the President has repeatedly said, it is important for Malawians to recognize that budget support from bilateral donors is unlikely to resume. We must learn to manage our affairs within the available resources.
This is not the time to expect large yearly salary increments from the Government.
Our efforts to strengthen the PFM system are motivated to ensure that public money is used according to what it is
intended and productively so as to improve the lives of Malawians.
53. Mr. Speaker, Sir,> we shall be distributing the necessary Budget documentation, including the new
Programmed-based Budget Document immediately today.
[PAGE 41]
54. And now Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me present the 2016/17 budget. Total revenue and grants during the 2016/17 fiscal year are estimated atK965.2 billion or 22.2 percent of nominal GDP. Of this amount, some K708.8billion will be tax
revenue, K66.0 billion will be non-tax revenue,while K190.4billion will be grants from our cooperating partners. Thus,
MK774.8 billion or 80.3 percent of these resources will be domestically generated, while the remaining 19.7 percent will represent donor grants.
Compared with the 2015/16 revised budget, tax revenues are projected to increase by 21.8 percent, reflecting the fact that nominal GDP, which is the base for most of the taxes, will grow by 24.0 percent. Tax on income and profits will account for 55.4 percent of total tax revenue, while tax on goods and services will generate 37.2 percent.
On the other hand, non-tax revenue is shown to be lower relative to the 2015/16 revised budget estimate of K71.9 billion, because the 2016/17 figure excludes the rural electrification levy which funds MAREP, estimated at K13.5 billion in 2015/16.
Moreover, it is projected that
[PAGE 42
the benefits of the anticipated implementation of the newly formulated Dividend and Surplus Policy will occur with a lag. The key non-tax revenue sources will be fuel levies, parastatal dividends and departmental receipts.
55. Mr Speaker, Sir, as I indicated, the estimate for tax revenue, as projected by the IMF, is higher than what was suggested by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), which was about MK698.0 billion.
In my view, although planning on the basis of the optimistic IMF projection could create the risk of a higher domestic financing outturn in the event of a shortfall in actual collections, it seems prudent to argue that MRA has the
capability to collect more revenue than it currently does as a proportion of GDP.
MRA is, therefore, being requested to rise to the needs of the country at this crucial moment when the enhancement of
domestic resource mobilization is critical for the attainment of our national priorities.
[PAGE 43]
56. Overall, at MK190.4 billion or 4.4 percent of GDP, there is a 45.5 percent increase in grants compared with the
2015/16 revised budget provision of K130.9 billion. This is due to a high rise in project grants that have been pledged, particularly by the EU. Moreover, the House may wish to recall that, during his recent visit,a grant worth US$18 million, which is approximately equivalent to MK13.6 billion. This projection for program grants represents a 33.8 percent decline over the projection made for 2015/16 of MK20.5 billion.
The World Bank and the European Union may also provide budget support once they finalize their own evaluations of the public finance and economic management framework during the course of the calendar year.
The House is informed that the pending budgetary support amounts from the two multilateral donors are being treated as
memorandum items which, once they materialize, will be used to fund specific expenditure items.
[PAGE 44]
57. Turning to total expenditure and net lending during 2016/17, Mr. Speaker, Sir, this is projected to be MK1136.4billion or 26.1 percent of nominal GDP. This represents an increase of 23.9 percent over the 2015/16
revised expenditure. Of this amount, recurrent expenditure will be MK815.5 billion or 18.7 percent of GDP, which is
higher than the 2015/16 allocation by 16.8 percent.
Moreover development expenditure will increase by 57.0 percent from MK217.5 billion to MK317.4 billion, or 7.3 percent of GDP. Up to K279.8 billion or 82.2 percent of the development budget will be provided by development partners through loans and grants, while local resources will account for the balance of K37.6 billion or 11.8 percent.
Therefore, the donor contribution to the development programme is anticipated to increase by 62.0 percent relative to
2015/16. Importantly, Honourable Members should note that the development expenditure provision constitutes 27.9 percent of the budget and is higher than the 25 percent that is the internationally accepted threshold.
[PAGE 45]
is also in excess of the estimated wage bill of K264.4 billion. Therefore, the proposed budget is optimally “developmental” using both criteria.
58. The House’s attention is also drawn to the fact that some further resources are available from the unused proceeds of project loans. Net of loan amortisation, we plan to draw K111.2 billion for expenditure on projects for which the
money is in the total resources available within the expenditure figure. The total available resources therefore amount to K1,086 billion.
59. In addition, Mr Speaker, Sir, the sum of MK3.5 billion has been set aside as net lending. Of this amount, MK3.0 billion will support university students with loans administered by the Higher Education Students' Loans and Grants Board, representing an increase of 100 percent from the MK1.5 billion provided in 2016/16. The balance of MK500 million in net lending will be allocated to the councillors’ motor cycle loan facility.
[PAGE 46]
60. In terms of direct allocations to key line ministries, Mr Speaker, Sir, the amount of K198.5 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development; K147.6 billion to the Ministry of
Education, Science and Technology; and K95.8 billion to the Ministry of Health. All these key vote allocations represent increases relative to the revised expenditures for 2015/16. Moreover, Mr Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members are reminded that these allocations exclude the sums that will be spent through local
councils and subvented organisations in these sectors.
They also exclude donor support outside the budget. As demonstrated in the Annual Economic Report which will be presented as part of the budget documentation, the allocations to the social sectors have generally increased.
61. Mr Speaker, Sir, allow me to indicate that some K530.5 billion or 46.7percent of the proposed total
expenditure and net lending amount of K1,136.4 billion constitutes statutory
[PAGE 47]
expenditures. These are expenditures which the Government is legally prohibited from postponing each year,
mostly dominated by wages and salaries, pensions and gratuities, and debt servicing costs. Therefore, Honourable
Members should be aware that there is very limited room for meeting our non-statutory recurrent and development
needs in the coming year. This is a very important factor that should be considered in analysing the allocations.
Most importantly, the fact that the budget is getting smaller and smaller than government needs every year creates a
fundamental need for the prioritisation of Government operations to ensure that only essential and affordable operations may be financed. I believe that this is the opportune time to seriously review Government functions with a view to streamlining operations within the available resources, in order to deliver better quality public services on a
sustainable basis.
[PAGE 48]
62. At this point, let me emphasise, Mr Speaker, Sir, the importance of prudence by controlling officers in the implementation of the budget. Given that significant resources will be allocated towards the purchase of maize during the next fiscal year, and in view of the constrained space for non-statutory expenditures, it is important that
ministries, departments and agencies must be prepared for diminished resources in real terms. This is particularly so in terms of allocations for other recurrent expenditures.

Nonetheless, it is the expectation of the
Government that MDAs will plan their
programmes and activities within the
available resources, and that they will
neither over-commit nor create
unauthorized arrears.
63. Compared with the estimated
revenue and grants position of MK965.2
billion, Mr Speaker, Sir, the proposed
total expenditure and net lending of
MK1,136.4 billion implies a projected
overall negative fiscal balanceof MK171.2
billion, which represents 3.9 percent of
GDP. The deficit will be financed through
net foreign loans worth MK111.2 billion
and net domestic financing of MK60
billion. As indicated, the domestic
borrowing target has already been agreed
with the IMF.
Highlights of the 2016/17 Recurrent
64. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in terms of key
recurrent expenditure items, the House is
invited to note several highlights of the
proposed Budget. To begin with, due to
the increase in the stock of public debt,
we have projected an increase in public
debt charges from MK116.2 billion in
2015/16 to MK143.5 billion in 2016/17.
This increase is a key limitation to the
availability of resources for actual
expenditure on goods and services.
Nonetheless, the House will be pleased to
note that the interest payment on public
debt is projected to remain stable at
around 3.3 percent of GDP, which is very
small compared with the internationally
acceptable threshold of 10 percent.
Thus, overall, we remain among the least
public debt encumbered countries.
65. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, Sir, as
already intimated, the wage bill in
2016/17 is projected at MK264.4 billion,
representing 6.1 percent of nominal GDP
and 23.3 percent of total expenditure and
net lending. This is very much in line with
the international best practice which
requires that the wage bill should be kept
below 7 percent of GDP and below the
level of development expenditure. The
House is invited to note that there will be
an average salary adjustment of about15
percent in the year,but this will only
targetthe lower grades of the Civil Service.
Moreover, the recruitment freeze in the
Government shall remain in force,except
for the recruitment of an estimated
10,500 primary school teaches and 477
secondary school teachers. This
recruitment of teachers was postponed in
the 2015/16 fiscal year, although most of
the processes were already concluded.
Mild recruitments in the health and
agriculture sectors (particularly of
extension service workers) have been
considered to avoid the disruption of
frontline service delivery. Another
recruitment priority area that has been
considered is that of security institutions,
particularly the Malawi Police Service and
the Malawi Defence Force, to ensure that
security is not compromised.
66. Mr Speaker, Sir, I have also
already indicated the depth of the FISP
reforms that the Government will
implement during the coming financial
year. From a Treasury perspective, let me
emphasise that it is critical to fix the
coupon value while allowing the farmer
contribution to vary according to market
trends. With the totality of the reforms in
mind, the 2016/17 FISP has been
allocated the sum of MK31.4 billion. This
is a significant reduction from the
2015/16 revised budget allocation of
K63.9 billion. Honourable Members will
be pleased to note that there are further
indications that development partners
collaborating under the Multi-Donor
Trust Fund in Agriculture may also
provide resources specifically in support
of the seed component of the reformed
67. Mr Speaker, Sir, the 2016/17
budget also makes a provision of K50.2
billion for the payment of pensions and
gratuities. This is only adequate to
sustain payments under the existing
Government Pension Scheme because of
our inability to migrate to the National
Pension Scheme due to resource
limitations. Moreover, the sum of MK5.2
billion has been allocated to the National
Identity Cards Project, representing an
estimated 40 percent of the Government
Contribution to the project for the year.
Negotiations are underway between the
Government and development partners to
lower the Government share of the total
cost, and the Government offers to ringfence
its contribution in the budget. In
addition to this provision, the sum of
MK780 million has been allocated to the
National Registration Bureau for
operating expenses.
68. As for road maintenance and
rehabilitation, Mr Speaker, Sir, the sum
of MK20.6 billion has been allocated
towards this important activity. Of this,
some MK8.0 billion has been earmarked
for selected roads in thefour major
cities.The cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe
have been allocated MK2.5 billon each,
while Mzuzu and Zombahave been
allocated MK2 billion and K1 billion,
Highlights of the 2016/17
Development Budget
69. Mr Speaker, Sir, the development
budget allocation of MK317.4 billion
covers many projects that will be
implemented across the public sector.
While there are many small development
projects included, Honourable Members
are invited to note some of highlights of
the proposed development budget, as I
now present them
70. In Agriculture, Irrigation Water
Development, a total of MK 117.5 billion
has been allocated to various projects.
Of this amount, MK115.9 billion will
come from development partners, while
MK1.6 billion will constitute local
resources. The key projects included are
the Shire River Basin Management
Project, the Agriculture Sector-wide
Approach Support Project, the
Smallholder Irrigation and Value Addition
Project, the Rural Irrigation Development
Programme, and the Smallholder
Agriculture Infrastructure Support
71. Excluding resources provided
through subvented organizations, Mr
Speaker, Sir, a total of MK22.3 billion has
been allocated to various projects in
Education, Science and Technology,
consisting of MK19.7 billion in donor
funds and MK2.6 billion in local
resources. The funds are directed
towards key activities including the
rehabilitation of conventional secondary
Schools, construction of teacher training
colleges, construction and expansion of
selected community day and conventional
secondary schools,expansion and
rehabilitation of public universities and
establishment of Mombera University.
72. Mr. Speaker, Sir, a total of
MK35.9 billion has been allocated for
road construction, consisting of MK28.7
billion in donor funds and MK7.1 billion
in local resources. As indicated by His
Excellency the State President, some of
the roads under consideration are
Chitakale Road, Jenda-Edingeni Road,
Chiringa-MiseuFolo-Chiradzulu Road
and Lumbadzi-Dowa-Chezi Road. While
these are the clear priorities of the
Government, consideration will also be
made of Thabwa Road,Nacala Corridor,
Mzuzu-Nkhata-Bay Road, Livingstonia-
Njakwa Road, Old Lilongwe Airport-
Kasiya Road, as well as design study of
Mthuthama Road andRumphi-Nyika
73. In Transport and Public Works,
Mr Speaker, Sir, an amount of MK34.1
billion has been allocated for development
projects, of which MK32.4 billion will be
from donors under the Trade Facilitation
Project and for airport equipment
upgrading. Among the notable projects as
mentioned by His Excellency the
President is the commencement of
Chileka Airport, the rehabilitation of
Mzuzu Airport, and the possible design of
the new Mzuzu Airport.
74. An allocation of MK12 billion will
be made towards health sector projects.
Resources have been provided for
Phalombe Hospital and the Lilongwe
Cancer Centre, among other health sector
projects. Moreover, in the Natural
Resources, Energy and Mining sector, the
total development budget allocation is
MK13.1 billion. This will almost entirely
come from donors, and will be provided
for the Energy Sector Support Project and
the Mining Governance and Growth
Support Project.
75. Mr Speaker, Sir, the sum of MK3
billion out of the local resources has been
set aside for district council development
project initiatives, to support Councilors’
efforts to develop their respective local
areas. These resources will complement
the Constituency Development Fund
(CDF) which is managed by respective
Members of Parliament. An additional
amount of MK1.5 billion has been
allocated towards the construction of the
Commercial Court. This project stalled on
account of arrears owed to the contractor.
The matter has been resolved and the
allocated amount should finance the
completion of the project. This project is
fully locally funded. In addition, the sum
of MK1.6 billion has been allocated to
projects under the Community Colleges
Programme, in addition to an amount of
about MK650 million for programme
operations. Further, the European Union
will support technical and vocational
training under a new six-year programme
that will be funded under the 11th
European Development Fund (EDF)
through which €540 million will be
allocated to Malawi.
76. Therefore, Mr Speaker, Sir, while
appreciating the continued on-budget
and off-budget support that both the
World Bank and the EU provide to this
country, it is our hope that these
development partners will come forth to
assist us with the budgetary support that
would permit the country to meet many
outstanding yet very crucial expenditure
Tax Policy and Administrative
Measures for the 2016/17 Budget
77. Mr. Speakers, Sir, I now turn to the
tax policy and administrative measures
that will support domestic resource
mobilization for the 2016/17 budget.
From the outset, let me reiterate that,
once again this year, we are expected to
generate adequate local resources to
finance more than 80 percent of our
activities due to the absence of
predictable budgetary support.
Consequently, the tax measures that I
shall be announcing will concentrate on
broadening the tax base, improving tax
administration, removing economic
distortions to spur production, and
encouraging tax compliance to generate
more domestic resources.
Comprehensive Review of the Tax
78. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as Honourable
Members may recall, last year I
announced that we had suspended
undertaking a comprehensive review of
the tax system due to the unprecedented
natural calamities of floods which were
followed by drought. I wish to inform the
House that we have commenced the
review of our tax system this year with
technical assistance from our cooperating
partners, notably the IMF and GIZ. The
IMF were in the country in January 2016
to undertake a scoping study of our tax
system. Some of the tax policy changes
that I shall be announcing today have
benefited from the input that we received
from our cooperating partners. Let me
further inform the House that the
comprehensive tax review aims at
creating a simple, efficient, transparent
and fair tax system through tax base
broadening; rationalizing the taxation of
international investment to ensure
competitiveness while preventing base
erosion; integrating tax policy with
national development strategies;
streamlining tax incentives; modernizing
and stabilizing the current tax legislation,
as well as eliminating obsolete and
contradictory measures to provide
taxpayer certainty, among other
79. Mr. Speaker, Sir, it should be
noted that the Customs and Excise tax
measures that I will announce today will
be effective from midnight tonight,
whereas the VAT and Income Tax
measures will be effective on 1st July
2016, once the relevant bills are passed
by this House.
Value Added Tax Measures
80. Mr. Speaker, Sir, over the last
decade, 32 African counties have
introduced Value Added Tax (VAT) as
their main broad-based consumption tax.
Malawi introduced VAT in August, 2005.
SADC member states are developing
guidelines for VAT’s best practices. VAT
has therefore gained popularity because
it is considered to be a revenue-efficient
tax with a self-policing mechanism
through the credit method - where one’s
input-tax is another’s output-tax. Some
scholars have termed VAT as the
workhorse for governments in domestic
resource mobilization. The January 2016
review of the Malawi tax policy conducted
by the IMF has strongly recommended a
shift in the reliance of domestic revenue
from taxes that fall on labour and
investment to taxes that fall mainly on
consumption. VAT is one such
consumption tax and SADC has also
made a similar recommendation for its
Member States.
81. Mr. Speaker, Sir, Malawi’s VAT,
unfortunately, has failed to live up to the
expectations of being a productive, stable
and efficient source of government
revenue since it was introduced, on
account of many reasons. One of the
reasons is that VAT has been used in
Malawi as a social security tool through
the introduction of numerous exemptions
and zero-ratings on goods and services
deemed to be used by low income earners
in society.
82. The numerous exemptions and
zero-ratings on goods and services have
not only eroded the tax base and
compromised revenue generation
capabilities, but they have also acted as a
subsidy to consumers who have
purchased the zero-rated goods and
services. Due to our inability to ring-fence
goods such as laundry soap, the higher
income earners have also had access to
zero-rated goods. Effectively, low income
earners have subsidized high income
earners. The fallacy of exemptions and
zero-ratings is that the exempted or zerorated
product or service is not really
cheap as, in the case of exemptions,
exempted goods or service will always
come with VAT that is not claimable and
ends up being passed on to the final
consumer. In the case of zero-rated
goods, delays in refunds act as a tax on
the supplier of the product who may have
to borrow money to pay for VAT and has
to wait for months to get a refund.
Effectively, suppliers of zero-rated
products load the costs of delay in getting
refunds in the prices of their goods or
services, which erodes the subsidy effect.
83. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in order to
address this challenge, Government is
introducing the standard VAT rate of 16.5
percent on a number of products which
are currently zero-rated or exempted.
This measures will expand the tax base,
restore the integrity of the tax system by
removing distortions that favour some
products against others, and remove the
causes of high refund bills that MRA is
sometimes not even able to honour.
84. Mr. Speaker, Sir, one of the areas
that is gaining prominence in Malawi is
the mining sector, as evidenced from the
growing exploration appetite and the
increase in the number of exclusive
prospecting licenses awarded to
date.Currently the VAT rules and
regulations do not allow a person who is
engaged in mining exploration to be
registered for VAT. A person is eligible for
VAT registration only when he has begun
to supply taxable goods or services.
85. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as you are
aware, it takes time for a mine to be
operational and during exploration
phase, a miner (prospector) will have
incurred VAT which he is not able to
claim because he is not registered for
VAT. To address this problem, which has
acted as a disincentive for investors, we
propose amending the VAT Act to allow
the mineral exploration phase to be
eligible for VAT registration and,
therefore, qualify for VAT claims. This
measure will not only relieve a VAT cash
flow burden on miners, but will also act
as an incentive in the mining sector and
this is likely to spur the mining industry
to greater heights.
Customs and Excise Act Amendments
86. Mr. Speaker, Sir, there are
numerous amendments to the Customs
and Excise Regulations which will appear
in the Government Notice to be published
in support of the 2016/17 Budget. I do
not intend to list down these changes to
the Customs and Excise Regulations. The
Commissioner General of the Malawi
Revenue Authority will publish these
changes through public notices after the
changes have been gazetted.
Let me appeal to members of the public to
follow-up these changes by logging in
MRA’s website, or by requesting for copies
of the changes from MRA’s corporate
office, or by reading in the local
newspapers, or even by obtaining copies
of the notices from the Government
Amendment to Customs Procedure
Code 445
87. Mr. Speaker, Sir, under the
Customs and Excise (Tariffs) Order, the
Government has created special
transactions called Customs Procedure
Codes (CPC) which allow dutiable goods
to be cleared duty-free because of
bilateral and multilateral agreements,
such as the Vienna Convention. CPC 445
covers Agreements with other
governments, organization, institutions
or persons.The total revenue foregone
under this CPC has averaged 0.27
percent of the GDP over the years. From
midnight tonight, CPC445 is amended to
cover agreements with other
governments, multilateral organizations
and only those industries designed as
priority industries.
Removal of Customs Duty on Power
Voltage Regulators
88. Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government has
embarked on the diversification of
sources of energy from hydro-power to
solar, biogas, and wind, among others.
In order to support investment in solar
renewable energy supplies, the 5
percentimport duty on power voltage
regulators has been removed. Let me
hasten to state that, with this measure,
all duties on solar gadgets will have been
Removal of Import Duty on Surgical
89. Mr. Speaker, Sir, surgical gloves
are very important in hospitals, especially
when performing an operation on a
patient. For this reason, and to align with
the COMESA external tariff, the 10
percent import duty on surgical gloves is
hereby removed.
Customs and Excise Bill
90. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I will now
mention briefly the Customs and Excise
Act amendments that will be presented in
this House in the form of a bill. Firstly, as
Honourable Members are aware, the
Government has allowed the private
sector to be licensed as Customs Agents
to transact business with the MRA on
behalf of the importing or, exporting
community. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I shall be
presenting a bill to this House to allow the
Commissioner General of the Malawi
Revenue Authority to suspend or issue an
administrative penalty to a Customs
Agent who has violated any conditions
attached to his license. The
Commissioner General, may, depending
on the gravity of the offence, even revoke
a license, especially where it has been
established that such an agent has
deliberately violated the conditions
attached to his license.
91. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, Sir, in a
bid to encourage compliance with excise
tax provisions, operators licensed under
the excise regime shall be subjected to
distraint or garnishment where it has
been proved that all actions to recover
money properly due to Government have
failed to yield positive results. Garnish
orders or distraint actions are provided
for under the VAT and Taxation Acts. The
bill that will be presented to this House
will seek to extend distraint action or
garnish order to be applied to excise
licensed operators to enforce compliance.
92. Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, Sir, the
Malawi Revenue Authority accepts
payment of income tax using personal
cheques in order to encourage
compliance and to reduce cost of doing
business in Malawi. The same facility has
been applied for the settlement ofcustoms
and excise liabilities. Unfortunately, some
tax payers have abused this positive
gesture from MRA. In order to reduce the
costs of collecting moneys from
dishonoured cheques and also to pay for
the value of money, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I
shall be presenting a bill that will levy a
30% penalty of the amount on the cheque
that has been returned by the bank.
This penalty will be additional liability to
the full taxes or duties due.
93. Mr. Speaker, Sir, prior to 2014,
the Malawi Excise tax regime had a two
tier structure that provided a lower excise
rate for locally manufactured cigarettes.
The objective of this two tier structure
was to encourage local production of
cigarettes with its attendant advantages
of value addition, job creation, export
diversification and foreign exchange
earnings. Recently there has been a
noticeable increase by investors to
manufacture cigarettes in Malawi using
locally grown tobacco. Mr. Speakers, Sir,
to support and encourage the interest
shown by investors in cigarettes
manufacturing, we are reverting to the
two-tier excise tax regime that prevailed
prior to amendments in 2014.The two tier
excise tax regime will be as follows:__
(i) Levying of US$10 per 1000 sticks
of cigarettes for locally made
Levying of US$10 per 1000 sticks
of cigarettes for imported
cigarettes with 70% locally grown
tobacco content.
(ii) For all other cigarettes outside
(i) above, the excise tax rate
applicable shall be the equivalent
of US$ 20/1000 sticks of
94. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the excise tax
regime to be applied to cigarettes that I
have presented puts the Malawi excise
tax structure in line with the rest of our
neighbouring countries which shall,
therefore, reduce smuggling of cigarettes
to Malawi.
Income Tax Measures
95. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I now turn to
income tax measures. Honourable
Members may wish to know that, since
the late 1960s, life insurance in Malawi
has enjoyed a tax rate of 21 percent,
which is lower than the standard
corporate tax rate of 30 percent. This tax
incentive was meant to encourage
Malawians to develop a culture of taking life
insurance policies, and to encourage
companies in Malawi to invest in this sector.
It is pleasing to note that, currently, not less
than 5 companies have invested in life
insurance business operations.
96. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as tax incentives
must have sunset clauses, and because
there is a fair representation of companies
on the market providing life insurance
products, it is now time to unify
thecorporate tax on life insurance
investments with those of other businesses
by increasing the rate from 21 percent to 30
97. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, Sir, similar
to life insurance, the Government
introduced an exemption on interest earned
on income for the first K10,000.00, with the
intention to encourage a savings culture.
Currently commercial banks have been
running promotions that aim at enticing
Malawians to open savings accounts. As a
result, there has been an uptake of both
commercial bank operations and opening
up of savings accounts in Malawi.
Therefore, as with the life insurance case,
the Government has resolved to remove the
tax exemption on interest earned on income
for K10,000.00.
98. A third income tax measure, Mr. Speaker, Sir, relates to mining. Honourable Members may wish to know that, as a country, we have a mining fiscal regime that was enacted at the time of independence,
hence one that is out of tune with current national and international developments in the mining sector. To address this problem, I shall be presenting to this House, Mr. Speaker, Sir, a bill that aims at providing clarity in the determination of taxable income, incentives and proposals to transfer the administration and collection of royalty from the Ministry of Mines to the Malawi Revenue Authority.
99. Further, the mining fiscal regime bill will also separate provisions for the taxation of mining projects even if the projects are owned by the same company, so that each project should pay its fair share of tax. To bring transparency in the tax incentives provisions that are granted to mining [PAGE 73]
investors and to ensure equal and fair treatment, the fiscal regime for the mining sector will grant tax incentives to qualifying investors. The House may wish to note that the fiscal regime lays bare all tax incentives, details for claiming depreciation allowances, and determination of assessable income, thereby promoting transparency and accountability.
Tax Clearance Certification
100. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in a bid to improve tax compliance, we are proposing that people who do business with Government ministries, departments and agents should be required to produce a tax clearance certificate before transactions are concluded. Indeed this will encourage tax compliance by the private sector, especially the informal sector, as it is envisaged that people who shall do business with Government will be required to go to the Malawi Revenue Authority to obtain the tax clearance certificate before a transaction is concluded.
[PAGE 74]
Recovery of Tax Where Transaction Has Been Concluded Fraudulently 101. Mr. Speaker, Sir, there are incidences when transactions are concluded between MRA and the private sector but no tax clearance certificate is presented or there has been a fraud.Currently there is a penalty of K50, 000 that is imposed on any person that fraudulently facilitates the conclusion of a tax clearance certificate. Mr. Speaker, Sir, this penalty is too small to deter would be offenders. I shall be presenting a bill to this House amending the penal sum to five times the amount prejudiced or K10, 000,000 -00 whichever is greater.
102. Mr Speaker, Sir, Malawi is now at a point where critical decisions have to be made, not just by the Government but by all Malawians. The future of our country is entirely in our hands.
That future demands of us to think carefully about what role each one of us is playing to change our fate, as individuals, institutions and a people. The surest way to secure that [PAGE 75]
future for posterity is by working hard to change our lives, and by remaining patriotic to our country. On its part, the Government is committed to ensuring that the necessary incentives are created for all Malawians to pursue and realise their full opportunities and potentials. The budget for 2016/17 has been formulated to achieve that Governmental objective.
103. I, therefore, wish to conclude my statement by reiterating that a change in the mind-set of our people is necessary now, more so than ever before. Unless that change occurs sooner rather than later, Malawi will not be able to cope with the bigger challenges that lie ahead, including the enormous challenge of a fast growing population.
104. Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move.
[PAGE 76]