By MacMillan Chasunda
While memories of the failure of the past zero-deficit budget during the reign of Late President Bingu wa Mutharika are still fresh, a lot of Malawians have welcomed the current zero-aid budget for financial year 2014/2015 presented to Parliament by the Finance Minister Goodal Gondwe on September 2.
Reacting to the budget, majority of people who commented on Zodiak online have indicated that indeed its high time that Malawi stop relying on donors for budgetary support and start looking at own resources. There is a growing feeling among many Malawians that the country has enough resources to depend on itself but the main problem is not having honest leaders.
One Kennedy Matemba wrote “This budget is good, time has come not to depend upon donors. We had been relying donors since 1964 now they are tired, let them go. We Malawians lets unite and develop our country, lets work extra had. God will lead to our destiny”
Steve January sympathized with the government on the zero aid budget saying that there isn’t much that could be done especially that the donors are not willing to provide budgetary support amidst the continued issues of cashgate and corruption. “We can’t force the donors to assist us but what is most paramount is for the government to utilise every resource we have as a nation. Government should also walk the talk regarding payments for civil servants” said January
These sentiments by Malawians have also been echoed by a seasoned economist who was a Finance Minister during United Democratic Front (UDF) reign, Professor Mathews Chikaonda who feels that the zero-aid budget is necessary under these circumstances.
“We have sometimes formulated budgets on assumptions that we will get donor funds, but that has not worked because that for one reason or the other is never disbursed.” said Chikaonda. He further allayed fears that government will have tough time in financing the budget.
“If you make your calculations very well on how revenue is to be collected, you will notice that the deficit is only a K100 billion and that can be sorted out by the Reserve Bank of Malawi. The question now is not what government will do about the figures, rather, what will everybody do about the budget?” Chikaonda challenged.
The National Coordinator for Forum for National Development (FND) Fryson Chodzi also agreed with most Malawians that there isn’t much that the government would have done but the zero-aid budget.
“Zero-aid budget doesn’t mean that Malawi don’t need donors but rather an acceptance that we are in a situation where donors might not be able to provide the much needed budgetary support. As a country we have to move on and therefore it is only prudent that the government had to put this budget in place” Chodzi said. He further cautioned government about walking the talk and not repeating the mistakes of the past where similar attempts only worsened Malaw’s economy.
“Unless we are all willing to bear the pain of this budget especially from the leadership, then we might succeed. The challenge is that what we are witnessing on the ground are trends which are worrisome especially that our politicians pay themselves hefty salaries, allowances while denying the civil servants and poor Malawians the same” added Chodzi in reference to the proposed raise of MP perks and loans and that of Ministers which is over 200%
According to Finance Minister Gondwe, our development partners have indicated that they could provide budget support based on demonstrated implementation of the agreed public finance management reforms but Government is being cautious knowing that already we are 3 months into the new financial year hence the zero-aid budget.