The country’s opposition parties have dismissed President Peter Mutharika’s 2018/2019 Budget national-State-of-the Nation-Address (Sona) presented on Friday in Malawi Parliament address describing it as ‘wishful thinking’.
They added that President Mutharika’s purported address achievements is as ‘sweet on paper and bitter in reality’.
The Malawi leader turned his Sona into a rallying call for purported successes in his four-year administration just eleven months before general elections in 2019.
Mutharika cited inflation figures, forex reserves and a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility as a sign that his administration has improved the economy.
“Mr. Speaker, Sir, our macro-economic outlook is very bright. Nobody says we have achieved economic perfection. Nobody should say we don’t have challenges. But we agree that there is now a clear sense of economic direction and that we can count our achievements as a nation.
“In general, we have achieved macro-economic stability, inflation reduction and a rebound in economic growth.
“The International Monetary Fund has just given us a vote of confidence. This week, the IMF has approved a new Extended Credit Facility for the next three years. This means the IMF is satisfied with our economic management,” he said.
Mutharika also said the administration has constructed roads across the country and its efforts continue to be undermined by the severe effects of the Cashgate scandal of 2013.
The President further defended his government’s inability to handle the electricity crisis, saying the administration continues to work on improving the energy situation was neglected for years by previous governments.
The Malawi leader argued that with increased funding to bodies fighting corruption, his administration had also delivered on its promise to tackle the problem and said with a growing economy, there will be more funds available for social spending.
However, Mutharika failed short on commenting on whether the diesel-powered gensets his administration had procured—currently under probe—had delivered or not.
He threw at the House impressive economic figures that four years ago inflation was at 24 percent but now it is in single digits and that interest rates have dropped from 25 percent to 16 percent.
“We have taken our foreign currency import cover from the lowest point to the highest point in our economic history. From an import cover of below two months, our import cover now stands at 6 months. Our local currency is now stable and predictable,” boasted Mutharika.
He hastened to add that in four years, the DPP-led government has taken gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate from 2.4 per cent to projected growth of 4 percent this year.
Mutharika’s speech was, however, interrupted by scuffles between police and unruly DPP supporters who had been ordered out by Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya for heckling opposition members of Parliament (MPs).
But Business and Finance Committee of Parliament chairperson Rhino Chiphiko said Mutharika’s purported achievements have not translated into better living conditions for most Malawians.
Chiphiko, who is opposition Malawi Congress Party legislator, said Mutharika’s achievements have been limited to impressive figures, but have not improved the lives of the poor.
“I don’t agree with the assertion that he has delivered but it’s not only me but everybody can see the struggle of Malawians. It’s wish list of what can be done but something his administration has not done.
“It’s a dream about a more stable and growing economy but we don’t have one now. The President is talking about building schools and roads but we don’t see it happening, we don’t see his rhetoric aligning with projects that are also in line with the country’s development goals,” he said.
People’s Party (PP) leader in the House, Ralph Mhone, said Mutharika’s achievements should be contrasted with the promises he made during the campaign through the 2014 DPP manifesto.
Mhone said Mutharika has failed to deliver a majority of his party’s promises in 2014 including the five universities as a measure to improve university student population ratio.
“The President says he has delivered by saying he has asked the universities to expand but you don’t hear him saying how much his administration has given the universities to expand their existing infrastructure.
“The President says they [DPP] have delivered because inflation is down, but look at people’s pockets, people are poorer than in 2014 before they came to power, people are suffering,” said Mhone.