About three million farmers are expected to benefit from the MK40 billion financing agreement the government has signed with development partners.
The financing agreement which comes under the second agriculture sector wide approach has been sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Irish Aid, Flanders government, Norway and the European Union.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Minister of Finance Goodal Gondwe commended the development partners for coming together to help boost farmers’ productivity.
Gondwe also warned the controlling officers to desist from misusing the public funds, arguing that it is the same practice which forced government to refund the World Bank huge amounts of money.
Taking his turn, World Bank country manager Greg Toulmin applauded government for the successful execution of ASWAP 1 which helped the government to revive the banana industry
“The first ASWAP registered some significant results. It helped revive the banana industry which was heavily affected by the banana bunchy top disease. It provided drought resistant crops, and a variety of vegetables,” Toulmin said.
The project will also help to improve rural road infrastructure for market access – rehabilitating 1,200 km roads, which is expected to increase the volume of motorized traffic by 50%, and help connect approximately 100 market centers, improving the market access of agricultural products.
The mid-year national budget review by parliament is expected to take place next month.
The 2017/2018 financial blue print review meeting will be happening just at the time when the government is preaching economic improvement news.
Since the budget was passed, the Central Bank has been reducing the policy rate which is the interest commercial banks borrow from them.
Government has been touting the policy rate reduction as a sign of economic stability.
The last time the rates were reduced was last month from 18 to 16 percent.
This clearly meant that commercial banks had to reciprocate by reducing their interest rates.
President Peter Mutharika recently also ordered commercial banks to reduce lending rates following the drop in inflation which is currently at 7.1 percent.
Just as the order by the Malawi leader was meant to see a positive reaction from the commercial banks, it is however proving not to be the case as some business operators are saying.
Former president of the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Industry who is Managing Director of Mkaka Construction Newton Kambala says there are still challenges in accessing loans in commercial banks.
Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo says currently the government is working on reviewing the budget before it goes into parliament for midyear deliberations.
Inflation is said to have dropped to a single digit at the moment although the public have been expressing reservations of not seeing the reflection of the said developments.
Continued rise of price of commodities and goods has been one of the concerns from the general public.
Government is yet to announce as to when parliament will start meeting for the budget review in the coming month.
Government has warned private employment agencies it will take drastic action against those deviating from the Labour Export Guidelines (LEG).
The warning comes amid reports that two young Malawian women alleged to be working in Iraq as domestic workers are subjected to harsh working conditions.
In a press statement issued on Tuesday, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development, Francis Kasaila, noted that some unscrupulous local private employment agencies and individuals continue to facilitate the migration of young Malawian women to the Middle East for employment as cheap domestic workers.
“This is done in total disregard of the labour export guidelines issued by the Ministry of Labour in August and government’s suspension of the recruitment of domestic workers from Malawi for employment in the Middle East,” said the minister in a statement.
Kasaila acknowledged that the ministry has information that there are two young Malawian women in Iraq as domestic workers who are working in inhumane conditions.
“Apparently, the local private recruitment agencies and individuals who facilitated the employment of these young women by-passed the requirement for clearance with the ministry [of Labour] and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security,” he observed.
The minister added that such actions were tantamount to human trafficking which is punishable under the Trafficking in Persons Act Prospective of 2015 of the laws of Malawi.
Kasaila has, therefore, urged private employment agencies and labour migrants to familiarize themselves with labour export guidelines to avoid such incidences.
“Prospective labour migrants are also advised to report any private employment agencies that flout the guidelines to my ministry, Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security or the Office of the Inspector General of Police,” he appealed.
Meanwhile, government has said it has instituted investigations to establish how the alleged young women managed to leave the country and whoever facilitated their trip will be brought to book.
“Government wishes to assure the nation that it is doing all it can to bring the young [Malawian] women back to the country within the shortest time possible,” added Kasaila.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has postponed the December 13 demonstrations to a later date.
Primarily, the protests were meant to push for the tabling of the electoral reform bills during the current sitting of parliament.
By Monday, five of the six bills had been brought to parliament.
The electoral reform bills include a proposal for the introduction of the 50+1 system, which would require a presidential candidate to secure more than 50% of the total votes cast in an election, in order to be declared winner.
The committee has however justified its decision to postpone the demonstrations.
The announcement was made during a press briefing held in Lilongwe on Tuesday.
This development comes amid mixed views by the public and civil society organisations on the planned protests.
Formed in 1992 during the Malawi’s political transition from one party to multi party system of government, the Public Affairs Committee remains a key civil society organisation in the field of human right, mediation, advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Gender Based Violence, religious co-existence, electoral processes and peace and security.
The founders are Malawi Law Society, Malawi Chamber of Commerce, CCAP Blantyre Synod, CCAP Livingstonia Synod, CCAP General Synod, Diocese of Lake Malawi of Anglican Church, Diocese of Southern Malawi of Anglican Church, Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches and Muslim Association of Malawi.
The Malawi government continues to come under pressure to have the Electoral Reform bills tabled in the current sitting of parliament.
Malawians and the Civil Society have been pushing for the bill to be discussed and passed into law for it to be applied in the 2019 General Elections.
Analysis by Christy Gomani
Parliamentarians and voters were looking forward to the current sitting of parliament as the beginning of a new chapter in the electoral system.
There were high expectations that the bill would find its way in.
Since discussions about the bill issue started in 2006, it has been observed that successive ruling parties are reluctant to have the bills tabled.
One of the recommendations in the proposed bills popularly is the 50+1 system.
This would require a winning Presidential candidate to amass over fifty percent of the votes cast, to be declared winner.
This is instead of the current system in which the winner of an election is determined by who has the most votes, regardless of whether they are below or over 50%.
Different stakeholders are opposing the current system, saying it does not guarantee that a candidate assumes the office of the president with majority votes.
Critics believe that successive governments do not support the bills, particularly the 50+1 proposal, because they fear that they would not be able to achieve the required numbers.
Just recently, the Public Affairs Committee issued a statement to push for government to follow through with its promise and have the bills tabled.
A statement was issued indicating that parliament will not be able to discuss the bill during this sitting.
In reaction, PAC is organising nationwide peaceful demonstrations to be held on Wednesday next week.
In a democratic and dramatic response, some chiefs were paraded on the state broadcaster, speaking against the demonstrations, claiming there is need for further consultation if the bill is to be taken before the legislators.
Some of these Chiefs however, are said to have been in previous discussion forums some years back, when consultations about the bill were being made.
This was revealed during Capital FM’s Sunday Round Table program over the weekend.
The Executive Director of Youth and Society Charles Kajoloweka, thinks these chiefs are acting under influence from the government.
Unandi Banda of the National Elections Systems Trust shares the sentiments and thinks the government is failing to walk its talk.
The Leader of the opposition and President of the Malawi Congress Party Lazarus Chakwera feels this is the only suitable time to bring the bill to parliament.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, however through its spokesperson Francis Kasaira, maintains that there is need for further consultations before the bills are brought to parliament.
It is high time that stakeholders reached an agreement, bearing in mind that there are only seventeen months left before the next elections are to be held in the country.
If Malawians are fail to prepare, then it is obvious they are preparing to fail.