Chakwera’s Sona a Mixed Bag - Analysts

Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda delivers the SONA to President Lazarus Chakwera during the 50th Session of Parliament Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda delivers the SONA to President Lazarus Chakwera during the 50th Session of Parliament Pic by Lisa kadango Malango

For close to two hours, President Lazarus Chakwera dwelled on key pillars of his vision for Malawi in the next 12 months, in what appeared to be a litmus test for the Tonse Alliance government.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) titled “Delivering Economic Transformation and Governance Reform through Sacrificial Action and Service Excellence”, Chakwera assessed performance of almost all sectors of the economy.

First under scrutiny was the country’s macroeconomic outlook where he admitted that a projection of 2.7 percent GDP growth in 2023 is unrealistic and that there are no prospects the economy will grow any better.

These trends have set a negative bearing on domestic revenue mobilization interventions as a projection of MK805.8 billion is far from being reached. All revenue generated locally at the end of the current financial year are pegged at MK1.628 trillion, representing 13.7 percent of the GDP.

The figure, according to Chakwera, is not good enough to change living conditions of Malawians whom he admitted are living in harsh conditions.

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR’s) Executive Director Michael Kayiyatsa has punched holes in the SONA describing it as a failed promise in reference to Chakwera’s previous SONA where he promised to fix broken systems.

He has on the other hand commended the President for admitting the challenges that Malawians are experiencing in the face of high inflation resulting in a high cost of living.

“During the last SONA, the president indicated that he will fix broken systems and we wanted the president to give us an update on how this has been achieved but we have noted that in the year under review, there were so many irregularities,” observed Kayiyatsa.

In the face of a declining economy, President Chakwera has his hope in social protection efforts including the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) and cash transfers to make a better living for his citizens.

He has announced the establishment of a consolidated social protection programme targeting 4 million ultra-poor Malawians and re-designing the AIP to make it more efficient.

On this intervention, Kayiyatsa doubts whether the yet-to-be introduced programme will respond to the needs of Malawians.

However, National Planning Commission Director General, Dr Thomas Munthali thinks much of the interventions rolled out by the government are critical pillars of the country’s development blueprint, Malawi 2063.

Dr Munthali nonetheless complains of slow implementation of government programs, citing the first ten-year Implementation Plan (MIP 1) of the Mw2063 whose majority of programs are behind schedule.

“We have started 80 percent of what we had hoped to start off with but a lot of them are going very slow; in a lot of those areas there have been a lot of development partners putting in resources,” he added.

Taking his turn, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa describes the SONA was a missed opportunity.

“I can describe it comfortably as empty rhetoric. Believe me, in 2024 he will be here again telling us that he is still fixing the broken systems. We expected that this time around he will bring hope to Malawians but he hasn’t,” claimed Nankhuma.

In his SONA, Chakwera made one key directive to the judiciary: set dates for all corruption cases.

In the past year according to Chakwera, 65,157 corruption cases were registered in the judiciary, but 40,000 were concluded.

Out of this figure, the ACB investigated 584 cases; 270 investigations were concluded and it recommended 67 cases for prosecution.

The next SONA for Chakwera will be in 2024, the last or last but one before Malawi goes to the polls in a general election in 2025.

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