Malawi parliament passed a vital national budget on Wednesday needed to unleash more funding from the International Monetary Fund and other donors.

The K408 billion ($1.6 billion) budget vote was passed unanimously and quickly, a move aimed at impressing the IMF that is supposed to approve a new aid programme for the impoverished southern African nation next month.

The IMF’s resident representative to Malawi said last week the smooth passage of the budget by parliament would be crucial to getting the approval. The IMF and Malawi this month agreed on a three-year, $157 million aid package.

In a statement, the IMF board concluded there was a case for IMF funding and policy support in Malawi. But first the government should demonstrate through initial steps that it is committed to implementing economic reforms.

“The success of any future financial arrangement will depend on the authorities’ firm commitment to the program, demonstrated in part by significant upfront policy actions,” the IMF said.

“The buildup of international reserves and the introduction of a more flexible exchange rate regime and liberalized foreign exchange market should remain critical elements of Malawi’s policy framework,” the Fund added.

Aid to the land-locked nation had dried up over concerns about the human rights record of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack in April.

New President Joyce Banda has moved swiftly to woo back donors who generally account for 40 percent of the country’s budget. The budget was unveiled on June 8 and forecasts growth of 4.3 percent this year and 5.7 percent in 2013

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