Press Corporation Limited (PCL) Chief Executive Officer Mathews Chikaonda has asked the government to charge full cost recovery user fees for things like passports and drivers licences, saying doing so would improve delivery of service at the concerned departments and save government a lot of resources.

Speaking at the Malawi Economic Conference in Lilongwe on Saturday organised by the International Monetary Fund, the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Chikaonda said subsidising the cost of things like passports and drivers licences was the reason behind delays and poor services at the Immigration Department and the Road Traffic Directorate.

“People take months before getting their actual passports and drivers licences because government has no money for buying of material for making them. But if full users fees were charged for these things, applicants should be able to get passports or licences same day and all those queues will disappear,” observed Chikaonda.

He said although government charges lower-than-cost fees for passports and drivers’ licences, applicants end up spending more since they have to travel several times to the offices from faraway places such as Mangochi.

“It would be better and probably cheaper if applicants were to pay full costs and get what they want the same day,” said Chikaonda.

In response, Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga said government was happy to listen to public debate on how the economy can be improved and acknowledged Chikaonda’s proposals on the issue of user fees.

“It’s health, to debate on such matters. But we know that it becomes very sensitive. Sometimes any suggestion that we move in a new direction provokes anger and outrage,” said Lipenga.

He said, however, although some of the decisions the present government has made in recent times with regard to the economy have been painful, Malawians have generally accepted them as necessary.

“I think that the same thinking will have to be applied to other areas where we have to make [difficult] decisions,” said Lipenga.

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