By Kondanani Chilimunthaka
Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera who arrived in the country on Sunday, May 29,2022 from a foreign official trip, has finally announced fifteen strong measures aimed at cutting public spending to align with the devaluation of the Malawi currency.
Making the announcement in Lilongwe at Kamuzu Palace where he addressed the Press on Tuesday, May 31,2022, Chakwera told the nation that he is aware of the pain the country will face after realigning the Kwacha, but was quick to say it remains the right thing to do in order to bring the economy back on track.
“Having a misaligned exchange rate was making our economy worse by the day, especially for importers whose businesses were getting paralyzed. Three weeks ago I had publicly said that I will put in place painful measures that are necessary for long time economic recovery, and this realignment is one of those measures,” Chakwera said.
President Chakwera then took his time to announce fifteen tough measures put in place to cut public spending, saying the measures may not be amended by any Government Ministry, Agency, Department, or Parastatal without prior authorization from his office.
Among the fifteen strong measures announced by the Malawi leader; Public officers including the President who need to travel for their work of absolute necessity will only be allowed to take no more than three trips during the remainder of the year, unless in cases of unforseen extreme emergency.
No top-up allowances will be paid to public officers on fully funded trips for work, training, workshops, or conferences.
Allocations of fuel allowance for all cabinet members is to be cut by 20%.
The measures have also seen the movement of pool vehicles owned by the government being grounded by 6pm, and that no driver shall be permitted to take such vehicles to their homes, except in the circumstances that the controlling officers have justified with the office of the President on any emergency pertaining to such movement.
President Chakwera in his strong measures has also suspended the procurement of new vehicles by MDAs forthwith until further notice from his office, adding that once the restriction is lifted, his office will regulate what model of vehicles must be procured for public officers of different grades to end the culture of people feeling entitled to luxurious vehicles.
If this was not enough, President Chakwera went on announcing the appointment of Ms. Colleen Zamba as the new Secretary to the President and Cabinet with immediate effect, replacing Mr. Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi whom he said will be deployed elsewhere.
“Now that the dislocated joint of the exchange rate has been aligned, the spending cuts I outlined to the Minister will be enforced. I know that the realignment of the exchange rate inflicts pain on all of you, because any increase in the price of imported commodities forces you to cut your spending. So it is important that we who are your public servants do the same, because the pain of making spending cuts due to the global rise in prices must be shared.” Said President Chakwera.
The Press briefing by the President centered on two major issues of the implementation of the instruction to correct the misalignment of the foreign currency exchange rate and the Corruption allegations against senior members of his cabinet in connection to British citizen (Sattar) who is answering charges in the UK Court.
On the issue of Corruption, President Chakwera dwelled on the allegations against his senior members of the administration, saying as the President, he feels the same distress that Malawians are feeling to hear allegations of corruption in the highest offices in the land, adding that he is equally frustrated as every citizen to hear that the British suspect recently visited Malawi and none of the agencies actively investigating him noticed.
“You elected me to make decisions that make our country better. And I took oath of office that when making any decision, including in matters of justice, I would do so ‘according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.’
That means my decisions as President must uphold certain principles of justice, regardless of my feelings and frustrations. It is these principles that make us civilized society, and so we cannot sacrifice them in the new of anger and anguish.” The President told the Press.
Further, the Malawi leader said because he is required by law to uphold the principles of justice that he has always waited for the respected investigators, or Courts to bring charges against someone before taking executive action concerning their positions. Clearly urging Malawians to wait until such period for him to decide on the individuals mentioned in the allegations on the issue of corruption by the British citizen who is answering charges in the UK Court.
President Chakwera has since announced a National wide campaign for driving Corruption of Government agencies which will be launched in July at a National Anti-Corruption Conference to be hosted by the President himself.
During the Press Briefing, some other issues were also clarified through answering of questions by the President and Ministers of Finance, Justice, Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Health who accompanied President Chakwera.