Malawi’s donors to Malawi have cautioned members of parliament and asked them to reflect on their demands for hefty sums of money in fuel allowances at a time the country is in an economic crisis.
The caution comes in the wake of revelations that parliamentarians are putting pressure on the government to pay out about K10m to each of the 193 MPs in fuel allowance arrears dating back to 2009.
However, chairman of the Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) German Ambassador Peter Woeste said in Lilongwe on Wednesday that there is “more to the crisis in Malawi than its economic dimension”, suggesting that the crisis was also one of confidence “in the system as a political project”.
“We appreciate that the government and the civil servants in settling the recent strikes agreed that those enjoying a higher salary will have to shoulder the bigger part of the burden. We hope parliamentarians will follow this example when reflecting on their demands,” Woeste said.
The demand by the MPs is coming at a time the IMF staff team is assessing the impact of the recent wage agreement between the Malawi government and the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU).
Ambassador Woeste observed that the current struggle was not just for the economy and currency, but a struggle “with an internal quandary” which required those at the top to lead by example.
He prayed that the players in the Malawi economy will not just want to exploit current problems for their quick gains “be it in Parliament or on the streets”.
“And I only can call to all participants in this big game, to all politicians, to all civil society, to all in the business sector: don’t exploit problems for quick wins,” Woeste said.
He added “Development Partners are encouraged that the authorities have reiterated their commitment to adhering to agreed budgetary envelope and identifying corresponding budgetary cuts in order to create the fiscal space for the wage adjustment”.
The Cabs are optimistic that economic growth will rebound because misalignment of the exchange rate has been corrected and forex is increasingly available while Malawi expects a good harvest.
On another note, the donors have criticised government for “parachute payouts” lately being paid out to top government officials fired by the current administration.
Woeste said donors were not amused that the payments are at the expense of the poor.
“We feel no one should be entitled to these golden parachute which is an amount; I calculated could feed over 3,000 poor families.
This makes up the question; the question is about the gap between those on the lower end of the salary and those of the higher salary. But here in some of these cases, it is extreme and this is what I criticised,” Woeste said at a presser on Wednesday.