LILONGWE—As Malawi’s ruling party continues to defend the country’s austerity budget, lawmakers on Tuesday reached into the past and invoked the name of the country’s first president, Dr. Kamuzu Banda, saying he too could have endorsed it.
"Our founding father Kamuzu wanted us to stand on our own. He wanted our independence to have a meaning and this Ngwazi has realised that dream,” said Christopher Ngwira (Mzimba Hora). “Most people who have criticised the Zero deficit budget simply don’t understand what it means."
Pres Bingu wa Mutharika admires Kamuzu’s development policies and gladly wears the title Ngwazi – the great one – similar to the late dictator. The zero deficit budget (ZDB), which is supposed to financed by local resources, was introduced when it became clear that donors, who provided up to 40 percent of Malawi’s development budget, would bail on the southern African country following concerns about economic mismanagement and human rights.
Former Kamuzu bodyguard Nicholas Dausi (Mwanza Central) agreed with Ngwira, saying the ZDB recognized the need to live within one’s means and self-reliance which he said was what Kamuzu believed in.
Ironically, there’s little evidence to show that Kamuzi, who was in power for 30 years, made serious attempts to diversify the country’s agro-based economy which is suffering right now. Malawi’s top foreign exchange earner tobacco didn’t do well at the market last year and donors cutting off their aid made matters worse for Malawi.
Pres Mutharika often says after 47 years of independence, Malawi, which remains among the poorest in the world, should be able to do certain things, like paying salaries for civil servants, leaving donors to help with development projects. Critics agree but point out that the country’s tax base is too narrow to support the ZDB at this time.
Energy Minister Energy Minister Goodall Gondwe said the Mutharika administration had no intention of abandoning the ZDB.
Gondwe, a former finance minister, was reacting to opposition lawmaker Mc Steyen Mkomba (Dedza Central) who said “government should wake up and see that the ZBD will not generate
foreign exchange nor does it change anything as prices are going up.”
He criticised “our obsession with independence” which he said “is contradictory as we keep blaming the global economy yet we insist we can be independent of the IMF which is a non-starter.”
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment