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How APM’s Large UN Entourage Eats Into Your Pocket

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President Mutharika - his delegation is spending over K350m at the 2015 UN General Assembly President Mutharika - his delegation is spending over K350m at the 2015 UN General Assembly

President Peter Mutharika has drawn criticism for travelling to the 2015 United Nations General Assembly with a large crew. With him, he is taking on board over 100 individuals, some of whom observers say may be irrelevant. So how does his trip eats into your pocket?

Our research has shown that a return ticket to New York, United States of America, is roughly costing US$2000 (K1.3m) currently.

As small as Malawi’s economy is, it is surprising therefore that the country can afford to send a delegation of 111 people to a UN meeting, more especially at a time the economy is in a shambles.

On airfare alone, Malawi will be spending K144m. On accommodation, our quick online research shows the cheapest hotel room in New York would cost around US$ 250/night, roughly K 150 thousand. This translates to around K17m per day for the 111 delegates.

For a minimum period of two weeks, the Malawi delegation would be spending K238 million on accommodation alone.

So if you add the resources for both accommodation and airfare, without including that of allowances, the taxpayer in Malawi will be spending a minimum of K352 million.

Looking at budgetary allocations of district hospitals that in Malawi in a month get between K20m and K30m, the financial resources that Malawi is using to send this huge delegation to the UN is enough to fund 14 district hospitals in a month.

Gives us a Breakdown – MEJN

This bloated delegation has irked many activists including executive director of the Malawi Economic Justice Network Dalitso Kulabasa who says:

“In this era of not doing business as usual and in this reforms era, we need a break down of each of those going to the UN and what value each of those in the delegation would add.”

Asked to explain the delegation, Director of Information in the ministry of information Dr. Bright Molande could neither deny nor confirm the number. He, however, explained that:

“You need to realize that very often the number is segmented; there is the UN delegation proper which will have been funded by the government”

He added that: “... then there are other officials that take advantage of the occasion to attend side meetings, some of whom are funded by organizations and not the government.’’

Well, if the organizations said to be funding some of the people making up this delegation are parastatals, then Malawians still have reason to worry. It is still tax payer’s money being spent here.  

With up to 80 representatives, Malawi also sent a large delegation to the UN General Assembly last year.

The Irony

That Malawi is in an economic shambles is no secret. Currently the kwacha has fallen to over K550 against the dollar in the last few months. Inflation is dangling at around 25 percent and then there is a looming major hunger crisis.

Just before departure on Monday, President Mutharika made a special national address to announce that close to 3 million Malawians face hunger in this country this year owing to floods and dry spells experienced at the start of the year.

He said the people to be affected are in 25 of the country’s 28 districts.

The government requires US$ 147 million (K82.6bn) to attend to the needs of the 17% of the population that will be affected. This amount is far below what Malawi will be spending at the UN that simply trimming the delegation by half would make funds available to deal with food crisis.

Little to Show

Despite spending such a huge amount of money for the assembly, President Mutharika may not be carrying with him good news worth the cost.

In his update on Malawi’s progress of the Millennium Development Goals, he will try to paint a picture that the nation has made significant progress, but in reality little has been done.

Malawi will be adopting the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals at the back of little progress in the MDGs.

For instance, recently a state official said Malawi has virtually given up on making any strides towards meeting most of the goals, goal number five on reducing maternal mortality being one of the major concerns.

Of the eight, MDGs, Malawi has only achieved goal number four that seeks to reduce child mortality. It the other goals, the country has managed to reach only the average of the targets, but not full achievement.

So many a Malawian would be asking what is the necessity of having a bloated delegation to a summit where you have little to show.

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