By Sylvester Kumwenda – Mana.
President Peter Mutharika has called for sober deliberations from members of parliament as they start meeting amidst what he described as several challenges the country is facing.
Mutharika made the remarks Friday as he delivered his pre-recorded State of the Nation Address (SONA) to mark the official opening of the 2020/2021 budget meeting of parliament.
He hailed parliament for answering its call of serving Malawians at a time the country is facing various challenges. Citing prioritizing politics over developing the country, thinking and voting on regional lines which he said is dividing the nation and destruction of properties and murdering of citizens in the name of advancing human rights.
He also cited the challenge of Corona virus and the dilemma it has brought of going to an election too soon or preventing the spread of the virus, and what he said as sometimes doing wrong things because of court orders.
“I raise these matters before this house because we represent the people. Some of the politicians destroying this country are not even represented in this house. I raise these matters because I have one plea to parliament. For the sake of developing our country, for the sake of the people, let us use our authority to set right what is not right.
“I therefore call upon this parliament to make sober decisions for the sake of Malawians,” said Mutharika through a video recording.
In his address titled; “Balancing Development and Politics: Renewing Our Love for Our Country”, Mutharika tackled a number of issues affecting Malawians and how his government continues to address them in order to better the lives of the citizenry.
On macroeconomic environment, the president said the economy has been resilient, surviving crisis after crisis from cashgate, floods to political violence.
He said last year alone, political violence disrupted businesses, undermined revenue and slowed down the economy through vandalism and murders, scarring away of tourists and investors which has cost the country K62 billion.
“Although post-election violence and Coronavirus has shaken the economy in the past fiscal year, the economy remained defiantly resilient because we built solid foundations for growth in the first five years. I am optimistic that this country will continue to do well because we continue standing on solid economic fundamentals.
“We maintain record low interest rates, a stable currency, single digit inflation rates and low budget deficits. With a real GDP growth rate of 5.1 percent, we still have managed to achieve the 2019 targeted 5 percent of economic growth. This is an improvement from the 3.9 percent real GDP growth registered in 2018,” said Mutharika.
On Fiscal Policy, he said the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year registered positive growth in revenue collection compared to the last fiscal year but said revenues outturn will fall short of target because of the post-elections violence and Coronavirus.
On monetary Policy, he said the year 2019 focused on preserving inflation in single digit and steering it towards the medium-term objective of 5.0 percent.
Mutharika also said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility (EFC) remains on track and the fourth and final review is scheduled for September, 2020.
The president also said the country has made tremendous strides in the areas of agriculture and water development where the Farm Input Subsidy Program has been successful and where there is an increase in maize production estimated at 11.5 percent from 3.3 million to 3.7 million metric tones.
Malawi, he said, has also made strides in areas of irrigation development, water supply and sanitation services, education, science and technology, energy and mining development, natural resources and climate change and youth development and empowerment.
“Government recognizes that a large population of the country is composed of the youth. In this regard, Government is implementing deliberate programs which are aimed at promoting youth employment in the country,” he said.
Some other areas that have also enjoyed success include trade development and industry, tourism development, fight against corruption, transport infrastructure, information and communication technology, women empowerment, and in health and population.
“We are working towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to ensure that all Malawians, irrespective of their social and economic status, are able to access quality, equitable and affordable health care,” said Mutharika.
He said despite the country being in a crisis, there is light at the end of the tunnel as government continues to deliver development in spite of crises and challenges.
“What we need is to unite, to put our country first and speak with one voice. Let us rise above partisan politics and put development before politics. Malawi is bigger than us all and our children are watching us,” said Mutharika.
Members of parliament are expected to start their general debate on the SONA on June 8.